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A Recommitment to the American Ideal That Labor Rights Are Human Rights

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Source: The Nation


Protesters rally at the Wisconsin State Capitol, March 12, 2011. (Reuters/Allen Fredrickson)

The makers of We Are Wisconsin -- the critically acclaimed documentary about the 2011 Wisconsin Uprising and its aftermath -- are sponsoring screenings of the film Monday in communities across the country as part of a National Day of Recommitment to labor rights.

"The day is the second anniversary of the signing by Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin Act 10, which ended 60 years of progress for Wisconsin workers," note the filmmakers. "The Walker assault led to battles all over America, challenging us all to stand up for working families, and to organize to put our country back on the right track."

"Recommitment" is a well-chosen word.

Despite the battering that unions have taken in recent years -- not just in Wisconsin but nationally -- a recommitment to labor rights is really a renewal of ideas and values that America once exported to the world.

There was a time, within the living memory of millions of Americans, when this country championed democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the right to organize in the same breath.

When the United States occupied Japan after World War II, General Douglas MacArthur and his aides worked with Japanese citizens to write a Constitution that would assure Hideki Tojo's militarized autocracy was replaced with democracy. Fully aware that workers would need to have a voice in the new Japan, they included language that explicitly recognized that "the right of workers to organize and to bargain and act collectively is guaranteed."

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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