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A Contest of IdeasCapital, Politics, and Labor$
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Nelson Lichtenstein

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780252037856

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252037856.001.0001

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A New Era of Global Human Rights

A New Era of Global Human Rights

Good for the Trade Unions?

(p.144) Chapter 10 A New Era of Global Human Rights
A Contest of Ideas

Nelson Lichtenstein

University of Illinois Press

The rights regime that emerged in the second half of the twentieth century proved enormously liberating, not only in the United States but throughout the world as well, and especially in the less industrialized and democratic nations where the demand for human rights and civil liberties has sparked reform and revolution. But for both workers and citizens, an orientation that privileges individual rights above all else can also function as both a poor substitute for and a legal subversion of the institutions that once provided a collective voice for workers and other subaltern strata. This chapter explores this trade-off. According to the International Labor Organization's World Labor Report, trade union membership dropped sharply during the 1990s, falling to less than 20 percent of workers in forty-eight out of ninety-two countries. The decline was most serious in manufacturing, even though on a worldwide basis the manufacture of actual products in actual factories was a booming proposition.

Keywords:   trade unionism, civil rights, human rights, manufacturing industry, activism

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