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3 L. & Ethics Hum. Rts. 1 (2009)

handle is hein.journals/lehr3 and id is 1 raw text is: 




Risse: Labor Rights as Human Rights


        INTRODUCTION:  DOUBTS   ABOUT  LABOR  RIGHTS  AS HUMAN   RIGHTS

Are  labor rights human rights?  They  appear in the Universal Declaration,' and
are covered  by the  International Covenant on  Economic,   Social, and Cultural
Rights2. Moreover,  in the 1993 Vienna  Declaration,3 the United Nations  insists
that [a]ll human rights [including the right to work] are universal, indivisible and
interdependent and interrelated. As far as the U.N. is concerned, labor rights are
human   rights, just as much as any other rights in the UDHR.   Yet labor rights
are the first to be questioned in philosophical inquiries about human rights, most
notoriously Article 24, which talks about rest and leisure, reasonable limitations
of working hours, and periodic holidays with pay.4
       This studyfirstjustifies (or at any rate, explain) the existence of labor rights
within the list of human rights, and second, articulates philosophical objections
to their presence on the list. The interesting question, then, is not how one could
respond to these objections, but what commitments  one needs to make in order to
answer  the question of whether labor rights are human rights in a comprehensive
and philosophically satisfactory manner. The  human  rights movement   generally
considers the UDHR   to be the defining document for what counts as a human right.
Yet in light of ongoing disputes about what human rights should be taken to be all
about, a reference to the UDHR cannot settle the matter.
       To make  progress, we can contrast the idea of human rights with conceptions
of them.  Such conceptions offer answers to a set of philosophical questions about
human  rights. It is unlikely for any such conception to emerge as the uniquely best
account of human   rights since disagreements among  conceptions (each of which
requires commitments   to a range of issues) are complex. This point may not be



       ' The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, G.A. Res. 217A, U.N. GAOR, 3rd Sess., 1st.
plen. mtg., U.N. Doc. A/810 71 (Dec. 12, 1948) [hereinafter UDHR].
       2 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI),
U.N. Doc. A/6316 (Dec. 16, 1966), Dec. 16, 1966, 993 U.N.T.S. 3, entered into force Jan. 3, 1976
[hereinafter ICESCR].
       3 World Conference on Human  Rights, June 14-25, 1993, Vienna Declaration and
Programme of Action, art.5, U.N. Doc A/CONF.157/23 (July 12, 1993), reprintedin 32 I.L.M. 1661,
1671 (1993).
       1 The word notorious itself makes appearances in this context. See, e.g., ALLEN BUCHANAN
JUSTICE, LEGITIMACY, AND SELF-DETERMINATION: MORAL FOUNDATIONS FOR INTERNATIONAL LAW
(2004)-noting human rights as necessary conditions for a minimally decent life-says that [i]n
some extreme cases, such as the notorious right to holidays with pay, it is pretty obvious that they
are not necessary for a decent human life, though they may make for a better life for many people
id. at 129. See also SIDNEY HOOK, Reflections on Human Rights, in PHILOSOPHY AND PUBLIC POLICY
(1980), notes the right to periodic holidays with pay as mirth-producing id. at 92.


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