Friends of the Earth Int’l and the International Trade Union Confederation unite.” 11/10/17. © Theiva Lingam

June 17, 2020; Bloomberg News

The news for the American worker has been getting worse and worse. It has been estimated that 40 million jobs have been lost as a result of economic collapse that has come with the coronavirus pandemic. To make matters worse, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin recently was quoted as saying that he thinks things will get worse before they get better.

As we reel from the shock of how bad our economy is right now, here is some salt to rub in that wound. According to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), among the countries included in the Group of 7 bloc of major economies, the United States has the worst track record for workers’ rights, as reported by Bloomberg News. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the best in terms of workers’ right, and 5 being the worst, the United States ranks a 4, which means there is “systemic violation of rights.”

According to this year’s edition of the annual ITUC report, that means, “The government and/or companies are engaged in serious efforts to crush the collective voice of workers putting fundamental rights under threat.”

The one silver lining in this is that at least we did not get worse. We had the same rating last year.

Overall, according to the report, things are getting worse for workers around the globe. ITUC writes that there are six rights that are most violated around the world:

  1. The right to strike is criminalized in 85 percent of countries.
  2. The right to collective bargaining has eroded in 80 percent of countries.
  3. The right to establish or join unions has been denied in 74 percent of countries.
  4. Access to justice and rule of law has been restricted for workers in 72 percent of countries.
  5. The right to trade union activity has been denied in 62 percent of countries.
  6. Arrest, detention, and imprisonment of trade union activists has been seen in 42 percent of countries.

The worst countries in the world for workers include India, Colombia, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Turkey. At the other end of the spectrum, the best countries for workers are mostly in Europe, including Sweden, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. The only non-European country that ranks a 1 is Uruguay.

The ITUC calls itself the “global voice of the world’s working people.” The foreword to the report, written by Sharan Burrow ITUC’s General Secretary, suggests that the numbers and trends in the report are from a time before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Burrow suggests that unless the world turns around this trend against workers’ rights, economic recovery will be difficult. She concludes, “Unless we build trust in democracy, beginning with workplace democracy, we put at risk the very foundation of our societies.” In other words, rather than supporting business owners and the fabulously wealthy and hoping for a trickle-down effect, it is time to pay attention to the needs of workers as we try to rebuild our economy.—Rob Meiksins