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[Excerpt] In the 1990s the parallel but separate tracks of the labor movement and the human rights movement began to converge. This chapter examines how trade union advocates adopted human rights analyses and arguments in their work, and human rights organizations began including workers' rights in their mandates.

The first section, "Looking In," reviews the U.S. labor movement's traditional domestic focus and the historical absence of a rights-based foundation for American workers' collective action. The second section, "Looking Out," covers a corresponding deficit in labor's international perspective and action. The third section, "Labor Rights Through the Side Door," deals with the emergence of international human rights standards and their application in other countries as a key labor concern in trade regimes and in corporate social responsibility schemes. The fourth section, "Opening the Front Door to Workers' Rights," relates trade unionists' new turn to human rights and international solidarity and the reciprocal opening among human rights advocates to labor concerns. The conclusion of the chapter discusses criticisms by some analysts about possible overreliance on human rights arguments, and offers thoughts for strengthening and advancing the new labor-human rights alliance.


Suggested Citation
Compa, L. (2008). Trade unions and human rights [Electronic version]. In C. Soohoo, C. Albisa & M.F. Davis (eds.), Bringing human rights home: A history of human rights in the United States (pp. 209-253). Westport, CT: Praeger Publishing.
Retrieved [insert date], from Cornell University, ILR School site:

Required Publisher Statement
Copyright 2008 by Cynthia Soohoo, Catherine Albisa, and Martha F. Davis. Reproduced with permission of ABC-CLIO, LLC.