Seventy years ago today, the world’s leaders adopted the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, committing to the principle that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
It was a pivotal moment that we all deserve to celebrate.
Many politicians didn’t recognize human rights simply out of the goodness of their hearts. They were pushed and pressured and forced by working-class people like us who harnessed their power through community groups, churches, and unions like OPSEU.
The Declaration of Human Rights was an historic victory for all, ushering in an era of unprecedented social progress and economic growth.
The past 70 years have been far from perfect. There have been brutal wars, and environmental destruction, and billions must still make do with far too little. But the progress we’ve made is significant.
Poverty, particularly in the southern hemisphere, is dropping. And as more of us are free to speak up for what’s right, our governments are slowly being forced to confront climate change and needless war.
There is much to celebrate. But we must never forget that we can’t take our human rights for granted. We must always protect them.
Just look at the resolution at the Ontario Progressive Conservative convention earlier this year to debate gender identity.
Our Trans communities have fought hard for decades for their rights, and they continue to do so.
Instead of exemplifying respect, recognition and celebrating diversity, our governing party is peddling exclusion.
Upholding human rights in the workplace is also vital. The UN declaration said that the right to unionize is a human right, and we think the right to strike goes hand in hand.
For example, a year ago, OPSEU’s college faculty members had their constitutional right to strike stripped away by the provincial Liberals.
Just as trade unionists fought to establish basic human rights 70 years ago, OPSEU is fighting now to protect the right to strike. In January 2018, we launched a Charter challenge against the Liberals’ back-to-work legislation, and we’re confident we’ll win.
We must recognize that the fight to protect our human rights is eternal.
In our workplaces, our communities, the courts, and in the streets, OPSEU and its members will continue to defend human rights, setting the stage for another 70 years of prosperity and social progress that are shared by all.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
OPSEU First Vice-President / Treasurer