The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The mission of the Tompkins County Workers’ Center is to stand up with all people treated unfairly at work or faced with critical poverty, racial, housing, health care, or other social and economic issues. We will support, advocate for, and seek to empower each other to create a more just community and world.

Is this pie in the sky?  what is this mission based on?

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified by the United Nations in 1948. Even during the dark days of WWII, many people were drawing attention to the need for an international bill of rights. In his 1941 State of the Union address, President Franklin Roosevelt claimed that the war was a fight for the ‘four essential freedoms’ — the freedom of speech and conscience, and freedom from fear and want. The movement for international protection grew as the clean-up from universal war commenced.

A committee of representatives from various countries, including Eleanor Roosevelt of the US, began work on the document. It was ratified in 1948 by 40 countries. The 8 abstentions included the countries in the Soviet bloc plus Yugoslavia, South Africa and Saudi Arabia.

But ratification means nothing if the rights enumerated are not honored by nations around the world. The articles which pertain specifically to the Workers’ Center mission are

Article 23: the right to a job with just and favorable conditions of work, a living wage and the right to form and join trade unions.

Article 24: everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25: the right to well-being of a person and their family including food, housing, clothing, medical care, child care, guaranteed income for those who can’t work or are unemployed, among other social services.

Rather eye-opening to see what the visionaries who lived through the horrors of WWII wanted for the future…and which we still cannot guarantee to the people of the earth. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the UN said, “The campaign reminds us that in a world still reeling from the horrors of the Second World War, the Declaration was the first global statement of what we now take for granted — the inherent dignity and equality of all human beings.” Do we take that for granted? have we achieved anything near universal human rights?

That’s why we still need to work.