In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, upholding the principle that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” Article 23 of the Declaration states that all people have “the right to work, to free choice of employment, and to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.” Over seventy years later, the struggle to secure this right remains as urgent as ever.
Today, the COVID-19 crisis and mass unemployment have once again exposed the pervasive pathologies in the economy, such as inequality, poverty, and discrimination that reproduce systemic racial, gender, and environmental injustice. In the United States of America, President Franklin D. Roosevelt responded to the economic calamity of his time—the Great Depression—with far-reaching economic policies and an appeal for what he called a Second (Economic) Bill of Rights that led with the right to decent and remunerative employment. “Jobs for All” was a signature demand during the U.S. Civil Rights era, when Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, among others, insisted that unemployment is a key force for racial subjugation. Recently, the Job Guarantee has been called “perhaps the most crucial component of the Green New Deal Resolution” (Atlantic 2018), a program that ensures a just transition for all workers and an antidote to systemic racial and gender discrimination that emerges from labor markets.
This interdisciplinary course traces the history of the struggle to secure the right to employment for all. It will focus on the economic, legal, and policy developments in the United States, and will introduce students to some international policy initiatives and innovative programs. A key question for discussion is whether these proposals and concrete policies have advanced the goal of equity and economic justice. Students will read economic analyses, policy proposals, legislative documents, and program reviews.
This course is not offered every semester. If your campus is offering the course, visit your institutions' course registration site to enroll.
American University of Central Asia
The Right to Employment
The Right to Employment