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Labor Unions Use U.N. Stage to Condemn U.S. for Human Rights 'Violations

Representatives from 47 nations are set to gather Friday in Geneva for a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council with plans to address the human rights abuses of one country in particular: the United States of America.  Joining in the airing of grievances against the U.S. are various left-wing interest groups and American labor unions.

On the agenda for Friday's gathering are the testimonials of select organizations and individuals who, for the first time ever, plan to claim the U.S. is violating global human rights -- including allegations of discrimination against Muslims, police brutality and wrongful detention of certain political prisoners. The exercise comes as part of the UN's "Universal Periodic Review" (UPR), a rotating periodic examination of various countries' human rights records by the council's members -- a council which includes such countries as China, Cuba, Libya and Saudi Arabia.

For two hours, the floor of the UN will be open for council members to critique the United States' record on human rights.  And though many would think the U.S. would receive accolades for arguably doing more on the human rights front than any other nation, Fox News reports that "ill-wishers" are planning to unload a barrage of attacks, including complaints from "some Western human rights organizations that Cuba, Venezuela and Iran are seeking to 'hijack' the microphone and stack the speaker's list with U.S. critics."

Subjecting the United States to the council's criticisms was a gamble by the Obama administration when it agreed to join the council; the Bush administration had refused.

So who benefits from the U.S. submission to the UPR process?  Fox News reports:

According to Jim Kelly, director of international affairs for the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies and founder of a blog called Global Governance Watch, the main beneficiaries are likely to be the interest groups that take part in the exercise. “The fact is, they are demanding that the U.S. comply with rights that are already addressed by our own democratic system and laws,” he argues. “They are simply trying to get us to adopt U.N. standards instead of our own. It’s not as if by our participating in the human rights process Cuba is going to clean up its act.”

But according to the U.S. State Department, which is leading a delegation of high-level American diplomats and government officials to Geneva, the Periodic Review is a major opportunity for Washington to lead the rest of the world by example.

“Our taking the process seriously contributes to the universality” of the human rights process, one State Department official told Fox News. “It’s an important opportunity for us to showcase our willingness to expose ourselves in a transparent way” to human rights criticism.

“For us, upholding the process is very important.”

The summary of submissions to the council shows a number of controversial criticisms and suggested remedies, including the recommended adoption of the Employee Free Choice Act, a.k.a. "card check."  The summary also demands the U.S. adopt the U.N.'s suggested policies without approval of the legislature.

--The U.S. needs to sign, ratify and implement a wide number of United Nations-sponsored human rights conventions, whatever reservations various U.S. governments or courts have had to them;

-- All these treaties and conventions should be “self-executing,” meaning that no subsequent U.S. government action should be required for them to go into effect—regardless of the U.S. constitutional separation of powers, and the separation of powers between federal and state governments;

--the U.S. should have national human rights institutions to coordinate and enforce human rights compliance;

--racial, economic and social disparities are still endemic in the U.S. despite its own civil rights laws, and need to be eliminated to meet “international standards” embodied in U.N. treaties. Amnesty International, for example, charges that “racial disparities continue to exist at every stage [U.S.] in the criminal justice system,” and calls for laws to bar “racial profiling in law enforcement.”

According to Fox News, New York-based Center for Human Rights and Global Justice goes further, arguing that since 9/11, “the U.S. has institutionalized discriminatory profiling against members of Muslim, Arab, South Asian and Middle-Eastern communities.” The organization calls for federal laws against profiling “on all grounds, with no exceptions for national security and an in-depth audit of government databases/watchlists.”

--barbaric treatment of citizens by U.S. police is allegedly rife. Again according to Amnesty, U.S. police and custody officials “are rarely prosecuted for abuses,” prison conditions “remain harsh in many states,” and “electroshock weapons are widely used against individuals who do not pose a serious threat, including children, the elderly and people under the influence of drink or drugs.”

--U.S. social conditions are dismal. One submission claims, according to the U.N. summary, that 30% of the U.S. population “lacks an adequate income to meet basic needs,” while another notes that “there is an unequal access in the U.S. to basic amenities such as adequate food, shelter, work, healthcare and education. There is also a lack of affordable housing, job shortages and income insecurity, particularly among minorities and women.”

-- native peoples on American soil are badly neglected and need the protection of international treaties, and the U.S. treats immigrants and asylum-seekers badly. At least one organization recommends a ban on deporting indigenous peoples from anywhere in the Americas.

One of the most outspoken contributors to the summary is an organization known as the U.S. Human Rights Network (USHRN), a group formed in 2003 as a "new model for U.S.-based human rights advocacy."  The group's report seeks "to raise awareness of the human rights framework within the broader social justice movement, to create linkages between traditional human rights and social justice organizations, and to facilitate sharing of information and resources among a broader network of activists."

Funding for the network and its Geneva submission apparently comes from the Human Rights Fund, an umbrella group whose steering committee of philanthropies include the Ford Foundation, George Soros’ Open Society Institute, the Overbrook Foundation and an anonymous donor.

Among the network’s membership are some prominent and familiar organizations: the American Friends Service Committee, Fordham University Law Center, the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights. ...

The USHRN position paper on U.S. labor relations, however, was submitted by much better-known mainstream organizations. Among them: the AFL-CIO, the Teamsters, the United Steelworkers and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). None are listed as USHRN members.

Among other things, the labor paper points to declining U.S. union membership as a function of discriminatory U.S. labor laws, including the National Labor Relations Act, and declares that “core internationally established labor rights are not adequately protected by state and federal laws that govern the American workplace” and adds that “workers have resorted to international fora to seek redress.”

It says that corporate harassment, threats, unlawful interrogations and retaliatory firings are “standard practice” in U.S. union organizing, and calls on the U.S. to obey “pertinent international instruments” to, among other things, adopt the Employee Free Choice Act, commonly known as “card check,” to ensure all workers get full federal and state labor law protection “regardless of migration status.” It also calls on U.S. governments give broader latitude to allowing public sector labor strikes.

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