Report to U.N.: Wonder What Bills the Administration Means

By November 10, 2010General, Labor Unions

We wrote Tuesday about the U.S. State Department’s document, “Report of the United States of America Submitted to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights In Conjunction with the Universal Periodic Review.” The Obama Administration’s report, released first in September and then formally submitted last week in Geneva, appears to curry favor with the United Nations by highlighting America’s shortcomings.

Except in many cases these shortcomings are in the fact policy disagreements. To even suggest that the United States falls short in the area of human rights because it has not enacted the Paycheck Fairness Act is an insult to those who believe that employers, not the federal government (or trial lawyers), bear ultimate responsibility for determining an employee’s compensation.

The report also scores the United States in the area of freedom of association.

23. Freedom of association also protects workers and their right to organize. The labor movement in the United States has a rich history, and the right to organize and bargain collectively under the protection of the law is the bedrock upon which workers are able to form or join a labor union. Workers regularly use legal mechanisms to address complaints such as threats, discharges, interrogations, surveillance, and wages-and-benefits cuts for supporting a union. These legal regimes are continuously assessed and evolving in order to keep pace with a modern work environment. Our UPR consultations included workers from a variety of sectors, including domestic workers who spoke about the challenges they face in organizing effectively. Currently there are several bills in our Congress that seek to strengthen workers’ rights—ensuring that workers can continue to associate freely, organize, and practice collective bargaining as the U.S. economy continues to change.

What bills could the State Department possibly be referring to?

Hah. Obviously, it’s the Employee Free Choice Act. No other legislation is as topical. This is the bill that would replace the secret ballot in union elections with the “card check” process of an employee publicly signing a card, opening the employee to pressure and intimidation by union organizers.

That’s right: Only by eliminating the secret ballot can America “strengthen workers’ rights” and rise to the United Nation’s high standards on human rights.


  • To revisit an earlier post when the report first became public, the summaries of the “civil society consultations” that informed this report are instructive. Save for one meeting — the final one in D.C. hosted by the Federalist Society — the sessions were dominated by grievance groups.
  • To be fair, the public statement in Geneva Tuesday by U.S. Legal Adviser Harold Koh, “United States Response to UN HRC Recommendations,” did reject some of the provocative criticisms made against the United States for its human rights record and report.
  • But then, Koh states: “Because we take this process seriously, we now plan to conduct a considered, interagency examination of all 228 recommendations, and to give our formal response at the March 2011 Council session.”
  • How could any “human rights report” approvingly cite W.E.B. DuBois? (Page 8). Here’s DuBois in 1953: “Joseph Stalin was a great man; few other men of the 20th century approach his stature. He was simple, calm and courageous. He seldom lost his poise; pondered his problems slowly, made his decisions clearly and firmly; never yielded to ostentation nor coyly refrained from holding his rightful place with dignity. He was the son of a serf but stood calmly before the great without hesitation or nerves. But also – and this was the highest proof of his greatness – he knew the common man, felt his problems, followed his fate.”

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