Honoring and Protecting Worker’s Rights on Labor Day and Beyond

Diverse restaurant staff standing together and smiling at the camera.

While many Americans view Labor Day weekend as the last hurrah of summer, its true purpose is to recognize the history of the American labor movement and the contributions workers have made to the progress of the United States. With that said, it’s important for employers to be thoughtful about worker’s rights, policies and principles.

While “worker’s rights” is a term often associated with unionization, that’s only one part of the definition. The International Labor Organization identifies “fundamental principles and rights at work” which, along with freedom to associate and to collective bargaining, include eliminating child labor and forced labor, elimination of discrimination and the right to a safe and healthy work environment.

The U.S. Department of Labor abides by the above conventions, but also tacks on labor standards specifically related to wages and hours. They outline policies such as the right to fair pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the right to unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Furthermore, they’ve created guidelines and toolkits specific to certain industries and job types – farm workers, restaurant workers and H-2B visa workers among them.

Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, wages paid to restaurant workers have been the subject of increased discussion. In Washington D.C., voters last year approved Initiative 82, a ballot initiative to raise minimum wage for tipped workers – which some restauranteurs have argued will stunt small business growth in the city due to increased wage expenses. While the wage discussion has been at the forefront of the restaurant industry the past few years, so too have workplace culture issues.

The Coalition for Restaurant Safety and Health is a RALIANCE grantee whose members are working to achieve harassment-free work culture in the hospitality and food service industries. In a previous blog post, we spotlighted the organization and the organizing, grassroots education and worker empowerment they employ to better the restaurant industry – an industry so notorious for toxic work environments that its now being reflected in popular culture.

With Labor Day weekend in the rearview mirror and as labor fights across the U.S. continue to take center stage, it’s important for employers to emphasize their commitment to a broader view of worker’s rights, including a safe, discrimination-free workplace, clearly defined leave policies, and fair wages for all employees.

RALIANCE is a trusted adviser for organizations committed to building cultures that are safe, equitable, and respectful. RALIANCE offers unparalleled expertise in serving survivors of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse which drives our mission to help organizations across sectors create inclusive environments for all. For more information, please visit www.RALIANCE.org.


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