[Excerpt] After November 2010 elections in the United States, human rights aspects of labor policy suddenly emerged at sub-federal levels. Elections in many states brought a sharp turn to conservative Republican rule. In this new climate, conflicts over workers’ rights took shape not at the ozone layer of high international policy, but at the oozing landfill level of local labor politics.
Governors and legislatures in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, and other states moved to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights, blaming their wages and benefits for budget shortfalls. A vindictive North Carolina legislature made it unlawful for public school teachers voluntarily to contribute to their union’s legislative action fund through paycheck deductions (in January 2012 a state court issued an injunction blocking the North Carolina law, saying that singling out trade unions for such a prohibition violated the state constitution’s guarantee of freedom of association).
The labor rights crisis provoked by state-level anti-union measures led to heightened awareness of international labor standards. In Wisconsin and Ohio in particular, and to a smaller degree in other states, Republicans’ anti-union moves galvanized trade unionists and their supporters into marches, occupations, and other forms of mass protest with slogans such as “workers’ rights are human rights” and “collective bargaining is a human right.” In Ohio, the labor movement and its allies overturned the anti-collective bargaining law in a public referendum. In Wisconsin, the law’s passage led to a movement to recall the Republican governor.