Around 2,000 protesters marched outside McDonald’s headquarters during their shareholders meeting in Oak Brook, Illinois to demand better pay and living standards for employees. The demonstration featured the Fight for 15 demands raised in cities like Seattle and the right to form a union.
Oak Brook police arrested 149 people in total, despite it being a peaceful demonstration. Mary Kay Henry, International President of the Service Employees International Union, applauded the efforts of the police even though she was among those who protested.
While the protest forced executives from McDonald’s to vacate their headquarters, CEO Don Thompson said the following day to shareholders McDonald’s workers were offered not only “real careers” but also “competitive wages.”
A new report by the International Trade Union Confederation highlighted such harsh labor standards not only in the U.S. but also throughout the world. From a scale of 1, which means “irregular violations of rights,” to 5+, which means “no guarantee of rights due to the breakdown of the rule of law,” the ITUC uncovered how labor is treated in both developed and developing countries.
The ITUC was founded in 2006 after a merger between the World Confederation of Labor and the International Conference of Free Trade Union. It represents millions of workers worldwide and, as they state, they primarily aim to promote and defend “workers’ rights and interests, through international cooperation between trade unions, global campaigning and advocacy within the major global institutions.” Its headquarters operates in Brussels, Belgium.
The report was titled the “Global Rights Index” and its purpose is to put “abusive governments and companies on notice that the international trade union movement stands in solidarity with workers who are denied fundamental rights.”
The worst places in the world for workers to work will be exposed and the ITUC will demand change, demand decent jobs. Global solidarity in support of countries where here are no rights, inadequate laws or effective labour market institutions will garner the support of trade unions around the world to rectify this situation. Governments and business that allow or perpetrate oppression of workers cannot hide.
The report, conducted over the course of a year, found the most frequent violation of worker rights was when workers participated in strike. Joining unions and calling for a strike were also problems in numerous countries with different standards applied.
In total, eight countries received a 5+ rating with a few notable countries like Syria, Ukraine, Palestine, Libya and South Sudan.
The United States received a rating of 4, which means there are “systemic violations of rights.” Other countries that received a 4 include Iraq, Mexico, Pakistan, Yemen, Iran and Argentina. Countries with a lower rating include Brazil and the United Kingdom at 3, Switzerland and Spain at 2 and South Africa and Germany at 1.
Russia, framed as public enemy number one in mainstream outlets, received a 2. This does not mean Russia is a better place for workers as 60 workers died in constructing for the Sochi Olympics, but it is not as bad as in the United States.
Recently, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, won the first-ever ITUC World’s Worst Boss poll. Other American CEOs nominated in the poll included JPMorgan Chase CEO Jaime Dimon, Koch Industries CEO Charles Koch, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and Wal-Mart CEO C. Douglas McMillon. Sharan Burrow, ITUC general secretary, explained the significance of this vote:
Jeff Bezos represents the inhumanity of employers who are promoting the American corporate model. The message to big business is back off, you are not going to mistreat workers, Burrow said.
For a company that patented pictures with a white backdrop, Amazon is no stranger to labor disputes with its workers. The Supreme Court recently took up Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Buck, which primarily deals with overtime pay not given to Amazon workers. The Supreme Court will make its decision next year, but other companies are alarmed by this push-back by workers as In These Times journalist Bruce Vail cited it may have repercussions beyond Amazon:
The case has attracted the attention of pro-business lobby groups, which often fight interpretations of the FLSA that would lead to an expansion of overtime pay. The Retail Litigation Center, the Society for Human Resources Management, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers filed a joint amicus brief in the case in favor of denying additional wage payments to the workers.
But this is an issue beyond the corporate sphere with the federal government also to blame. Michael Grabell of ProPublica provided excellent coverage of the weakness of temporary worker protection laws. Moreover, he references “permatemp,” which means ”hiring a temp for years to do the same job permanent employees do, but without the benefits and protections.”
The easy abuse of temp workers by companies looking to reduce costs surely was a factor contributing to the rating.
Yet critics would call the U.S. a haven for workers to work in. Forbes contributor Jeffrey Dorfman stated, due to higher labor productivity and average wage, the U.S. is a friendlier place for workers than in Europe. He elaborated what this data holds for workers in the U.S.: