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by James Parks, Sep 3, 2010


The land of the free is not so free if you are poor, a person of color or an immigrant, says a new report. As a result, the U.S. government must aggressively work to eliminate discrimination and disparities throughout society and in the workplace and to ensure that international human rights standards are enforced inside its borders.

The report, compiled by the U.S. Human Rights Network, a coalition of human rights, academic and civil society groups, is part of the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of human rights around the world. This is the first time the U.S. government has participated in the review, which occurs every four years. As part of the review, the U.S. government will have to defend its human rights record before a U.N. panel in November 2010.

The report on human rights conditions in the United States highlights the nation’s significant shortcomings in complying with international human rights standards and makes recommendations on how the United States can better meet those standards.

For example, the report points out that the U.S. labor laws fail to protect low-wage workers such as domestic workers, agricultural workers and independent contractors, who most often are people of color, immigrants or women. According to the report, the nation’s laws also limit freedom of association of workers by excluding large groups from the right to form a union. It calls for expanding and strengthening the right to collective bargaining, either by passing the Employee Free Choice Act or other legislation.

More than 200 nongovernmental organizations and hundreds of advocates across the country have endorsed the report, which took nearly a year to research and produce. The AFL-CIO and affiliated unions participated in several field hearings on human rights across the country that gathered information for the report.

The report addresses a wide range of issues, including education, equality and non-discrimination, capital punishment, treatment of people with disabilities, poverty and access to health care.

Anti-workers have denounced the report. But University of Pennsylvania Law School associate professor Sarah Paoletti, senior coordinator for the Human Rights Network’s UPR Project, says:

Refusing to acknowledge that the U.S. can make any improvements in its human rights policies and practices misses a critical opportunity for the U.S. to demonstrate the need for governments to hold themselves accountable to their constituents at home. Enhancing human rights at home will only strengthen the nation’s standing and influence abroad, and we should embrace the challenge.

To read the U.S. Human Rights Network report, click here.  For more information on the UPR process, click here.

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