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Diplomacy in Action

Message for Labor Day


Remarks
Barbara Shailor
Special Representative for International Labor Affairs 
Washington, DC
August 28, 2012

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On the first Monday of every September, Americans across the country and overseas gather to celebrate Labor Day. For many of us, the holiday is an opportunity to spend time with family, friends and our co-workers. Many of us, I’m sure, will attend barbeques, enjoy the last weekend of the summer and observe the Labor Day parades that are so much a part of our heritage. As we celebrate this holiday, it is important that we recognize that the rights of working people are human rights, smart economic investments and important values.

This holiday also holds an important social significance for our citizens. The holiday honors the creation of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the achievements of American workers.  It took decades of struggle for working people in the United States to organize into unions for the protection of their rights and the establishment of fundamental advancements like the eight-hour work day and the minimum wage.

Labor rights are human rights, and internationally recognized labor standards establish that workers everywhere, regardless of income or status, are entitled to certain universal rights, including the right to form and join a union and to bargain collectively. In the United States, we take those fundamental rights seriously. Globalization and the emergence of new economic powers make it essential that we maintain our commitment to these rights especially as we open markets and expand international trade.

Recently in Cambodia, the Secretary spoke about the importance of promoting these rights, and improving labor conditions so that families can enjoy more broadly shared prosperity and peaceful societies.

Respecting the rights of workers leads to positive, long-term economic outcomes. And bringing workers into the formal economy has ripple effects: inequality declines while economic mobility increases; taxes are paid; and, countries and communities are stronger and better able to meet the rising expectations of their people.

The global economy does not need to be a race to the bottom. We should be in a race to see how we raise income, raise standards of living, and raise the sharing of prosperity.  We must work to ensure that the global economy is working for people and not just people at the top, but people throughout society.  After all, defending labor rights and improving working conditions is a smart economic investment, but it’s also a very important value.

The U.S. government supports labor rights through a number of important mechanisms. We have made workers rights a standard of our trade relationships, and labor will be a centerpiece of a new trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We are working with Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam in these negotiations.

The Department of State has pursued a variety of opportunities, both in policy and programming, to bring together government, the private sector, civil society, and labor organizations to discuss the challenges of addressing labor and human rights in global supply chains.

Advancing labor rights will remain a priority for the United States in all countries. And we will continue to encourage every government of every nation to join us.

The history of the labor movement in the United States—and in so many other places around the world—is the story of courageous men and women who risked their lives and their livelihoods to ensure their right to organize, their right to fair compensation for their labor, and for the dignity their work were respected. Today, we celebrate their sacrifices and successes.

Happy Labor Day. I hope you have a safe and enjoyable holiday with your loved ones. 


For video taping on August 28 and subsequent posting on State DipNote  

Labor Day Message from Special Representative Barbara Shailor
Monday, September 3, 2012


On the first Monday of every September, Americans across the country and overseas gather to celebrate Labor Day. For many of us, the holiday is an opportunity to spend time with family, friends and our co-workers. Many of us, I’m sure, will attend barbeques, enjoy the last weekend of the summer and observe the Labor Day parades that are so much a part of our heritage. As we celebrate this holiday, it is important that we recognize that the rights of working people are human rights, smart economic investments and important values.

This holiday also holds an important social significance for our citizens. The holiday honors the creation of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the achievements of American workers.  It took decades of struggle for working people in the United States to organize into unions for the protection of their rights and the establishment of fundamental advancements like the eight-hour work day and the minimum wage.

Labor rights are human rights, and internationally recognized labor standards establish that workers everywhere, regardless of income or status, are entitled to certain universal rights, including the right to form and join a union and to bargain collectively. In the United States, we take those fundamental rights seriously. Globalization and the emergence of new economic powers make it essential that we maintain our commitment to these rights especially as we open markets and expand international trade.

Recently in Cambodia, the Secretary spoke about the importance of promoting these rights, and improving labor conditions so that families can enjoy more broadly shared prosperity and peaceful societies.

Respecting the rights of workers leads to positive, long-term economic outcomes. And bringing workers into the formal economy has ripple effects: inequality declines while economic mobility increases; taxes are paid; and, countries and communities are stronger and better able to meet the rising expectations of their people.

The global economy does not need to be a race to the bottom. We should be in a race to see how we raise income, raise standards of living, and raise the sharing of prosperity.  We must work to ensure that the global economy is working for people and not just people at the top, but people throughout society.  After all, defending labor rights and improving working conditions is a smart economic investment, but it’s also a very important value.

The U.S. government supports labor rights through a number of important mechanisms. We have made workers rights a standard of our trade relationships, and labor will be a centerpiece of a new trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We are working with Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam in these negotiations.

The Department of State has pursued a variety of opportunities, both in policy and programming, to bring together government, the private sector, civil society, and labor organizations to discuss the challenges of addressing labor and human rights in global supply chains.

Advancing labor rights will remain a priority for the United States in all countries. And we will continue to encourage every government of every nation to join us.

The history of the labor movement in the United States—and in so many other places around the world—is the story of courageous men and women who risked their lives and their livelihoods to ensure their right to organize, their right to fair compensation for their labor, and for the dignity their work were respected. Today, we celebrate their sacrifices and successes.

Happy Labor Day. I hope you have a safe and enjoyable holiday with your loved ones. 



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