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Book by Professor James Gross, known for advocacy, explores workplace democracy

Right to Work with Dignity Examined

The human right to work and economic race discrimination are discussed in a new paper by Professor Emeritus James A. Gross.

Focused on the experiences of Black men and women, "A New Deal for a Right to Work: Confronting Racism and Inequality in the U.S." by Professor Emeritus James A. Gross discusses the historical context of the right to work in the United States.

Published Jan. 12 by “The Scholar: St. Mary’s Law Review on Race and Social Justice,” the paper “is intended to revive the discussion of the human right to work as it was originally intended – as a right to guaranteed creative work for all,” Gross said in an interview.

“Using the rights violation-filled economic history of Black men and women in this country as a theme, the paper demonstrates that the human right to work in dignity is essential to the realization of other economic, political and social rights necessary to live a fully human life, and realize human potential and creativity,” he said.

The paper covers historical milestones such as the era from slavery to the New Deal, the role of the National Resources Planning Board, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Economic Bill of Rights and the Fair Employment Practices Committee.

Gross also explores Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the 1978 Humphrey-Hawkins Act, obstacles to change and the power dynamics influencing freedom.

The paper revolves around the need to revive the discussion on the human right to work, particularly in addressing economic race discrimination as a violation of human rights. The paper calls for a broader perspective considering economic, civil and political rights interdependence and a guaranteed work strategy.

“In international human rights and industrial relations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights concept that every adult has the right to employment has not been taken literally,” Gross said.

“Many countries around the world recognize civil and political rights, but also economic rights, but the U.S. says ‘no,’” he said.

“I’m arguing that dignified, safe, creative work freely chosen is a fundamental source of one’s independence and ability to participate in their communities, which, in turn, is a source of one’s ability to live a life as fully human as possible,” Gross said, citing Coretta Scott King, who said violence is inherent in white supremacy and includes discrimination against working people.

“In our country, private employers’ profit determines the existence of jobs and, therefore, what kinds of lives people can have. I argue that’s just dead wrong,” Gross said. “All people have a right to dignified work.”

“If the private sector doesn’t have the job, then it’s the government’s obligation to provide the jobs. It’s not as if this is unheard of. We’ve done this,” he said, pointing to Depression-era jobs created through the Works Progress Administration, Civilian Conservation Corps and Federal Theatre Project.



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