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Are workers' rights sufficiently protected in America?

This question was discussed on the Dutch NPO Radio 1 broadcast with Barend Barentsen, Professor of Labour Law. On 4 September, Americans celebrate Labor Day, a day on which the hard-working American takes centre stage.

Why do Americans celebrate Labor Day on 4 September instead of 1 May like most Europeans do?

'In America, our Labour Day on 1 May is strongly associated with an overpowering socialist labour movement. They acknowledge the importance of working people and workers, but not the red banner - social democracy - that is associated with it in other countries', according to Barentsen.

How are workers' rights protected in America?

'Not as well as in many other countries,' says Barentsen. 'Particularly not because employment protection is largely absent. You can lose your job in no time unless you have a good bargaining position. Social security protection is less common in America than in the Netherlands, but also in many other countries. From one day to the next, it can be over.'

Do unions have the power to change anything?

'Usually not,' says Barentsen. 'They do try sometimes, with the ongoing strike of writers and actors in Hollywood, for example. That only makes the news because it happens so infrequently. Unlike in Western Europe, trade unions are actively opposed by employers and not protected by the government. The position of unions in America is not great.'

'Labor Day in America is more for show than to support the workers.'

The current Biden administration does want to make certain changes to the unions, but their position is weaker. Unions should have better access to negotiations and the active resistance by employers should be limited.'

Listen to the entire episode (in Dutch) on the NPO Radio 1 website.

Image by Karl Callwood via Unsplash

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