Right to work
The right to work is the concept that people have a human right to work, or engage in productive employment, and may not be prevented from doing so. The right to work is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law through its inclusion in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, where the right to work emphasizes economic, social and cultural development.
The term "right to work", under US law, also refers to the individual right to work at any job without being forced to join or pay money to a union. The Taft-Hartley Act 1947 prohibited unions from requiring that employers dismiss anyone who did not join the union (a practice known as the "closed shop"). In states that agree, though, it allowed unions to collect a fee from non-members, on the theory that the union negotiates collective agreements that benefit non-members. The Act allowed individual states to abolish the union's ability to force non-union employees to pay the union for the privilege of working for their employer. Such state laws are called "Right-to-work laws".
Article 23.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
"Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment."
"(1) The State Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right to work, which includes the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts, and will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right. (2) The steps to be taken by a State party to the present Covenant to achieve the full realization of this right shall include technical and vocational guidance and training programmes, policies and techniques to achieve steady economic, social and cultural development and full and productive employment under conditions safeguarding fundamental political and economic freedoms to the individual."
"Every individual shall have the right to work under equitable and satisfactory conditions, and shall receive equal pay for equal work."
In their influential 1980 book "Free to Choose," economists Milton and Rose Friedman said, "[An] essential part of economic freedom is freedom to use the resources we possess in accordance with our own values – freedom to enter any occupation, engage in any business enterprise, buy from and sell to anyone else, so long as we do so on a strictly voluntary basis and do not resort to force in order to coerce others."
The phrase "the right to work" was coined by the French socialist leader Louis Blanc in light of the social turmoil of the early 19th century and rising unemployment in the wake of the 1846 financial crisis which lead up to the French Revolution of 1848. The right to property was a crucial demand in early quests for political freedom and equality, and against feudal control of property. Property can serve as the basis for the entitlements that ensure the realisation of the right to an adequate standard of living and it was only property owners which were initially granted civil and political rights, such as the right to vote. Because not everybody is a property owner, the right to work was enshrined to allow everybody to attain an adequate standard of living. Today discrimination on the basis of property ownership is recognised as a serious threat to the equal enjoyment of human rights by all and non-discrimination clauses in international human rights instruments frequently include property as a ground on the basis of which discrimination is prohibited (see the right to equality before the law).
The right to work as a self-employed professional came under regulatory attack throughout the 20th Century, when numerous U.S. states passed laws requiring licensing, testing, and other arbitrary educational requirements (such as requiring that the prospective worker donate thousands of hours of work as an unpaid or low-paid "intern" before being allowed to work at their chosen profession). The Friedmans reported in 1980 that "Today you are not free to offer your services as a lawyer, a physician, a dentist, a plumber, a barber, a mortician or engage in a host of other occupations, without first getting a permit or license from a government official." Many of these laws were attempts by existing professionals in a field to restrict others from competing with them, thereby limiting consumer choice and driving up prices for their own benefit. In response, entrepreneurs and activists have won numerous court cases securing constitutional protection for the right to earn a living. These cases have won the right to work for Louisiana monks who sell caskets, Philadelphia tour guides, Colorado taxi drivers, and Connecticut interior designers.
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Paul Lafargue, in The Right to be Lazy (1883), wrote: "And to think that the sons of the heroes of the Terror have allowed themselves to be degraded by the religion of work, to the point of accepting, since 1848, as a revolutionary conquest, the law limiting factory labor to twelve hours. They proclaim as a revolutionary principle the Right to Work. Shame to the French proletariat! Only slaves would have been capable of such baseness."
See also 
- "International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights". Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 1966.
- Milton Friedman and Rose Friedman (1980). Free to Choose. ISBN 978-0-15-633460-0.
- Revolutions of 1848: A Social History by Priscilla Robertson, 1952, Princeton University Press
- Alfredsson, Gudmundur; Eide, Asbjorn (1999). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: a common standard of achievement. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 533. ISBN 978-90-411-1168-5.
- Alfredsson, Gudmundur; Eide, Asbjorn (1999). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: a common standard of achievement. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 372. ISBN 978-90-411-1168-5.
- The Institute for Justice. "Economic Liberty". Retrieved May 1, 2013.
- Laurel Petriello (7/6/2009). "Judge Rules Interior Design Title Act Unconstitutional in Connecticut". Interior Design magazine.
- Paul Lafargue The Right To Be Lazy, Chapter II, 2nd paragraph
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