ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU
NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE
ACLU Declares State of Emergency in the American Workplace;
Announces Campaign For Bill of Rights for Workers
For IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 18, 1990
WASHINGTON -- The American Civil Liberties Union, joined by
representatives of Congress, labor, religion and business, today
said that civil liberties are virtually nonexistent in the
American workplace and called for the adoption of a Bill of
Rights for Employees.
"The lack of civil liberties in the American workplace is a
national scandal," said Ira Glasser, the Executive Director of
the American Civil Liberties Union. "To address this serious
problem, we have created a National Task Force on Civil Liberties
in the Workplace. Its mission is to do nothing less than change
our laws to extend basic civil liberties into the American
In a report prepared by Lewis Maltby, the Coordinator of the
Task Force, the ACLU found that the fundamental American values
protected by the Constitution's Bill of Rights stop at the
factory gate and office lobby.
From the basic right of freedom of speech to the more
sophisticated right to due process, the ACLU found that the
American worker enjoys virtually none of the protections that we
all take for granted in our daily lives. "There is a crisis in
the workplace of a magnitude unseen in many decades," Maltby
The ACLU will attempt to bring its proposed Employees Bill of
Rights to life by working to pass legislation in Congress and in
state legislatures. In addition, the ACLU will continue to bring
lawsuits against restrictive employer practices and will also
continue to educate the public about their lack of rights in the
"The American Civil Liberties Union," the proposed Bill of
Rights says, "believes that the basic civil liberties should be
protected from abuse in the world of work."
The document then outlines six areas--including Freedom of
Speech, the Right to Organize, Privacy, Fair Discipline, Equal
Treatment and Legal Protection--where rights are lacking in the
At a news conference today, the ACLU was joined by U.S.
Congressman William Clay, a Democrat of Missouri who chairs the
House Subcommittee on Labor-Management Relations of the Labor
Committee. Howard D. Samuel, the President of the Industrial
Union Department of the AFL-CIO, also endorsed the ACLU's
Dr. Sidney Harman, the chairman and chief executive officer of
Harman International, and George Ogle, the Program Director of
the Department of Social and Economic Justice of the General
Board on Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, also
attended the news conference.
"The ACLU's proposed Employees Bill of Rights is an important
document," Congressman Clay said. "I have introduced legislation
and will continue to push proposals to give the Employees Bill of
Rights the force of law."
Samuel, a longtime labor leader, also endorsed the Bill of
Rights. "Civil liberties do not stop at the factory door," he
said. "We welcome the ACLU's support for labor's efforts to
expand the rights of working people."
In its report, the ACLU said the denial of civil liberties in
the workplace can have several severe consequences, including
contributing to physical health problems such as mental illness,
alcoholism and suicide. In addition, the report said that the
lack of freedom at work has contributed to the nation's fall from
grace in international trade competition.
Among the Western industrial nations, the report said, only the
United States and South Africa fail to protect civil liberties at
work. "Not coincidentally, the world's most successful economies
-- Germany, Sweden and Japan -- have changed their laws to
protect the rights of employees," the report said.
At the news conference, Dr. Harman, a former U.S. Deputy
Secretary of Commerce, said that businesses must realize they can
protect the rights of their employees and still be profitable.
"Far from undermining productivity and profits," he said,
"progressive employee relations policies enhance the companies
that operate them."
His call was supported by Mr. Ogle of the United Methodist
Church. "Civil liberties in the workplace are part of the larger
question of social justice that we are most concerned about," he
In addition to the proposed Employees Bill of Rights, the ACLU
report concludes with several recommendations on ways to solve
the problems of a lack of freedom in the workplace. The
possibilities, it said, ranged from continued litigation to a
Constitutional amendment. The report concludes, however, that
state legislatures are the most likely arena for significant
With that conclusion, the ACLU recommends adoption of three
statutes at the state level: A comprehensive workplace privacy
statute; a statute guaranteeing all Americans the right to be
judged only on their job performance, and a statute protecting
workers from unjust firing. The ACLU is preparing model statutes
in several of these areas and plans to have them introduced in
many state legislatures this year.
"Early in this century, Henry Ford dispatched detectives to the
homes of all of his employees to investigate their morals, church
attendance and political beliefs," Maltby of the ACLU said.
"Other employers routinely retained private armies to attack
workers who protested wages or working conditions.
"Just as employers defend their actions today, at one time the
practices of Henry Ford and his colleagues were seen as necessary
intrusions into their employees' lives," Maltby added, "We need
to get past such attitudes and develop a national commitment to
extend the Bill of Rights to the workplace."