United States of America


Systematic violations of rights

Same as last year


Workers' rights violations

Right to privacy

In June 2020, Facebook, based in the United States, came under heavy criticism by trade unions for introducing a new tool on Facebook Workplace, a site where employees can view a stream of content similar to a news feed, with automatically generated trending topics based on what people are posting about. The new tool allowed administrators to remove and block certain trending topics among employees. In its launch presentation, Facebook offered one example of a topic employers might find it useful to blacklist: the word “unionise.” Faced with a flurry of criticism for facilitating anti-union strategies, the company took down its presentation the following day.

Right to privacy

In September 2020, Amazon in the United States posted and abruptly deleted a job listing on its site for two intelligence analysts to monitor sensitive, confidential topics, “including labour organising threats against the company.” Following public outcry from civil rights and workers’ organisations, the company called the posts an “error” and removed them from their website.

Despite being one of the largest and most-profitable companies in the world, Amazon's employees are not represented by a union of any sort. The company, known to be fiercely anti-union, resorted to underhanded tactics like spying on pro-union workers and sending explicitly anti-union propaganda mail to would-be union members.

Right to privacy

In December 2020, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in the United States, after a year-long investigation, filed a complaint against Google for violating U.S. labour laws. Google was accused of illegally spying on workers and questioning them before terminating staff who had attempted to form a union and had organised employees’ protests in 2019. The NLRB complaint absolved two fired employees of any wrongdoing and found that Google repeatedly violated U.S. labour law by using “terminations and intimidation in order to quell workplace activism”. It also found that Google’s accessing of workers’ calendars and other internal documents constituted unlawful surveillance. The case was expected to be heard and decided by an administrative law judge during 2021.


In 2020, Uber, Lyft and Doordash mounted the most expensive campaign in California’s history, Proposition 22, to fight AB5, a new state law that classified certain categories of gig workers as employees. AB5 would have mandated that platform companies employ drivers and pay for health care, unemployment insurance and other benefits. Spending over 200 million US dollars to blanket the state with ads to get its message to voters, the platform giants managed to win the ballot on 5 November 2020, allowing gig economy companies to be exempt from AB5 and to continue treating drivers as independent contractors. As a concession to labour advocates, the initiative offered limited benefits, such as a wage promise and health insurance stipend. In early January 2021, the Service Employees International Union and a group of ride-hailing drivers petitioned the state Supreme Court to invalidate Proposition 22.

Legislative reform

On 6 February 2020, the House of Representatives of the United States passed the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 2474), legislation that would increase protections for workers’ freedom of association, adding penalties for companies that retaliate against workers who organise (up to USD 50,000 per violation). The Act would also award workers’ compensation for the damages they experience when they are retaliated against, not just back pay and reinstatement, as they are currently entitled to.

Among other significant improvements, the PRO Act would grant some hundreds of thousands of workers collective bargaining rights and allow more people currently classified as contractors to be given the status of employees for the purposes of union organising, potentially paving the way for gig workers at companies like Lyft and Uber to organise. It would also weaken “right-to-work” laws in twenty-seven states that currently allow employees be exempt from paying fees to unions that represent them.

Passage of this bill follows years of stagnant wages for the majority of Americans, poor working conditions, and attacks on unions and workers’ rights in general by companies.

Workers’ rights in law

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