Friday, September 17, 2010


IWS Documented News Service
Institute for Workplace Studies----------------- Professor Samuel B. Bacharach
School of Industrial & Labor Relations-------- Director, Institute for Workplace Studies
Cornell University
16 East 34th Street, 4th floor----------------------
Stuart Basefsky
New York, NY 10016 -------------------------------Director, IWS News Bureau


Human Rights Watch


A Strange Case: Violations of Workers’ Freedom of Association in the United States by European Multinational Corporations [2 September 2010]


[full-text, 132 pages]


VII. Acknowledgments

Human Rights Watch consultant Lance Compa wrote this report. Business and Human Rights

director Arvind Ganesan, former Human Rights Watch senior labor rights and trade

researcher Carol Pier, general counsel Dinah PoKempner, and deputy program director

Joseph Saunders edited the report. Business and Human Rights program coordinators Carly

Tubbs and Kristina DeMain assisted with editing, copyediting, and formatting. Cornell ILR

student Dhruba Mukherjee and former Cornell Institute for Public Affairs student Sharon

Cleary provided research assistance.



Press Release 2 September 2010

US: European Corporate Hypocrisy

Global Firms Violate International Labor Standards in America


(New York) - Many European companies that publicly embrace workers' rights under global labor standards nevertheless undermine workers' rights in their US operations, Human Rights Watch said in a report issued today.


The 128-page report, "A Strange Case: Violations of Workers' Freedom of Association in the United States by European Multinational Corporations," details ways in which some European multinational firms have carried out aggressive campaigns to keep workers in the United States from organizing and bargaining, violating international standards and, often, US labor laws.


Companies cited include Germany-based Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile USA and Deutsche Post's DHL, UK-based Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets and G4S Wackenhut security, France-based Sodexo food services and Saint-Gobain industrial equipment, Norway-based Kongsberg Automotive, and the Dutch firm Gamma Holding.


"The behavior of these companies casts serious doubt on the value of voluntary commitments to human rights," said Arvind Ganesan, director of the Business and Human Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. "Companies need to be held accountable, to their own stated commitments and to strong legal standards."


Among the violations documented in the report are practices of forcing workers into "captive audience" meetings to hear anti-union harangues while prohibiting pro-union voices, threatening dire consequences if workers form unions, threatening to permanently replace workers who exercise the right to strike, spying on employee organizers, and even firing workers who support organizing efforts at companies.


The Human Rights Watch report is based on thirty interviews with workers and employees' testimony in legal proceedings, findings and decisions of US labor law authorities, company documents, and written exchanges with company management.


"The US needs to close the loopholes in the country's woefully inadequate laws to protect workers, including reforms embodied in the Employee Free Choice Act," Ganesan said. "The US labor law system is characterized by long delays, weak penalties, and one-sided employer access to staff inside the workplace."


The report also recommends stronger oversight by European headquarters of US managers' practices; stronger standards-setting and complaint mechanisms by international organizations such as the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); and stronger action by European governments and the European Union to require adherence to international standards by European firms.


In researching the actions of European companies, Human Rights Watch found:


•T-Mobile had characterized employees' "talking about rights" as dangerous activity to be reported immediately to management;

•DHL management threatened and discriminated against workers who tried to organize;

•Tesco management sought to muzzle workers' communication among themselves about unions;

•Sodexo threatened, interrogated, and fired workers who tried to form a union;

•The Dutch Gamma Holding company hired permanent replacements, in contravention of international standards but not of US law, to take the jobs of workers who exercised the right to strike.

The report noted that all the companies cited endorse some combination of the core labor standards of the ILO, the industrial relations guidelines of the OECD, freedom of association norms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Global Compact and other international human rights instruments.


"Even self-proclaimed ‘progressive' companies can and do take full advantage of weak US laws to stifle freedom of association," Ganesan said. "Unless the US strengthens and enforces labor standards, it's hard to see how workers in the US will exercise their rights."



This information is provided to subscribers, friends, faculty, students and alumni of the School of Industrial & Labor Relations (ILR). It is a service of the Institute for Workplace Studies (IWS) in New York City. Stuart Basefsky is responsible for the selection of the contents which is intended to keep researchers, companies, workers, and governments aware of the latest information related to ILR disciplines as it becomes available for the purposes of research, understanding and debate. The content does not reflect the opinions or positions of Cornell University, the School of Industrial & Labor Relations, or that of Mr. Basefsky and should not be construed as such. The service is unique in that it provides the original source documentation, via links, behind the news and research of the day. Use of the information provided is unrestricted. However, it is requested that users acknowledge that the information was found via the IWS Documented News Service.

Stuart Basefsky                   
Director, IWS News Bureau                
Institute for Workplace Studies 
Cornell/ILR School                        
16 E. 34th Street, 4th Floor             
New York, NY 10016                        
Telephone: (607) 255-2703                
Fax: (607) 255-9641                       



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