September 30, 2019

Human Rights in the Workplace

Written by Risa Peris

Phoenix, Arizona – Human rights in the workplace is an international issue with manifold consequences. Some countries have few government regulations for workplaces. The U.S. has the Department of Labor, which defines human rights in the workplace, establishes baselines and safeguards, and also has a grievance policy. Yet, the U.S. does not rank among the countries with the best safeguards for human rights in the workplace.

Here is a chart of the countries, ranked from 1 to 5 with 1 being the best, in ensuring human rights in the workplace.

Human rights vary from company to company in the U.S. despite laws established by the Department of Labor. In interviewing one employee of a multi-million dollar ISP company, it was discovered that human rights were mostly respected. The person interviewed wanted some anonymity as he felt he could get fired if his comments were discovered by his company. He works for Cox, Inc., which is a large provider of internet, phone, and video. Generally, these companies hold monopolies over certain geographic areas and consumers have minimal choices in providers. There really is no competition.

The employee, Tom Thomas, said he felt his human rights were respected in the workplace but he was quick to point out that Cox mainly acted or did things because of federal regulations. For instance, he has to watch videos on sexual harassment, workplace safety, and cybersecurity each year. He didn’t think the company would be so meticulous if it weren’t for federal and state regulations. When asked if he ever had to do a job or task that might risk his safety he said no. However, he works in a call center so it is unlikely he would be asked to do anything unsafe. He was also questioned if the employees tried to unionize. He denied that occurring in the call center, but he wasn’t sure about employees who worked in the field. This is a critical distinction. Those employees who work in the field have tougher working conditions and must execute actions that could cost them their lives. No data could be found about Cox field workers unionizing. Unionizing is a right under U.S. Labor Laws. It is a heavily guarded right but has been fought against in numerous ways throughout U.S. history, starting towards the end of the 19th century and continuing through the 20th century.

When the employee was asked if he received a fair wage for his work he hesitated and then stated: “No. I have to have a lot of technical knowledge and I have a Masters degree in security. I have worked for the company for six years and I am barely making $18 an hour. Additionally, the job is heavily observed and regulated. They look at your numbers and when you need to use the restroom you need to put your phone on a certain code and they keep track of bathroom breaks. They also heavily track breaks in general. It’s a little unnerving that people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren think fast-food workers should make $15 an hour. But what about me? I do a highly technical job. Shouldn’t my wage go up to at least $20? I don’t know. But the idea of making only two dollars more than a worker at McDonald’s kind of unnerves me. I think wages should be raised for everyone. Unfortunately, my wage doesn’t correspond with my education and expertise.”

A fair wage is a human rights issue. There are many politicians campaigning or supporting a $15 dollar minimum wage. However, skilled workers should also receive an increase. Mr. Thomas works for a multi-million dollar company. It would hurt profits only minimally if they were to increase wages. Mr. Thomas was quick to point out that he was happy with the benefits and he also believed his human rights were respected, however, he thought this was only because of state and federal regulations of the workplace.

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