“Work is dignifying.” It’s something you’ve heard all of your life, and there is no doubt that it’s true. That is one of the reasons why a knowledge of workers’ rights is extremely important.
What Are Worker’s Rights?
By definition, labor rights are legal and human rights in the workplace or in the relationship between employers and workers. Looking back at history you can find that the first labor rights movements were around the time of the industrial revolution. At that time working conditions were terrible. Workers often had to endure 14-hour workdays, had to survive on poverty-level wages, there was rampant child labor, and more. The goal was to defend the worker from the clutches of those whose only concern was becoming rich.
Because of workers’ rights marches and the actions of brave people, the standard workday is 8 hours long, there is a legal minimum wage, paid vacation time, and retirement savings systems for workers. When people come together to help each other, great things can be accomplished. Take for example Mary Beth Maxwell, Executive Director of American Rights at Work, whose efforts to improve people’s labor rights have helped many.
What Can You Do?
To do your part as a worker, the first step is to know your rights. That way it will be easy to identify when they are respected and when they are violated. Here is a short list of some workers’ rights that you should be aware of.
The 8-hour workday is standard. This is the equivalent of 40 hours a week, after which you must be paid extra for the hours you work beyond this amount.
This is the lowest wage per hour that an employer must pay you. Minimum wage was put into place to avoid someone being paid an unduly low hourly wage. It varies by state.
Freedom of Association
This refers to the right you have to associate with any group you wish, including unions. You may exercise the right of assembly and free speech.
You have the right to annual vacation time. If the dates established for this are interrupted by childbirth, for example, you have the right to take them at a different date.
Equal Pay Based on Gender
Your employer has to remunerate both men and women the same. Currently, this is still very much a hot topic. According to studies women are paid some percent less than a man.
Everyone has the right to safe and healthy working conditions. In 1840 the life expectancy of workers was 26 years due to harsh working conditions. That is the importance is having a healthy workplace.
There is no doubt that current times are very progressive, and labor rights have made great headway, however, it is well-known that there is still room for improvement in working conditions and equal labor rights. Knowing your workers’ rights, you are doing your small part to ensure that they continue being respected and to help identify instances where these can be improved upon.
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