Human Rights

Scholarship and reflection at the Looking Forward Retreat 2008.

Building a movement to end poverty, led by the poor.

The United Workers is part of a growing economic human rights movement to end poverty.  We advance the human rights values of dignity, respect and sanctity of human life.

We believe that every person is born equally worthy of respect and dignity.  We are champions of the transformative values that are the basis of human rights law, including the rights to housing, health care, social security, welfare, work with dignity, living wages and labor organizing.

At the foundation of the movement to end poverty are leaders from the ranks of the poor, united across color lines and language barriers.  That’s why the mission of the United Workers is focused on human rights education, leadership development and poverty scholarship.  We are developing our capacity to lead, through reflective action and critical scholarship.  We are the creators of history through our action.  We take our responsibility to lead seriously, which requires deep scholarship, analysis, reflection and commitment to our core values.

David Zirin of The Nation: The United Workers puts
the Poor in Charge of Movements to Fight Poverty…

The progress made on a living wage for day laborers in a hard-edged, damaged metropolis, which locals lovingly call Charm City, could open a new chapter in grassroots labor organizing not seen since the early days of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaigns, a model that puts the poor in charge of movements to fight poverty.

- David Zirin, The Nation (PDF)

Human Rights Values

Celebrating human rights values at Leadership Forum 2009.

What We Believe:

The United Workers is a human rights organization.  We believe:

  • Human life is sacred
  • All people are born equally worthy dignity
  • Everyone has an unconditional right to respect

We are deeply committed to our values, which will be realized through our shared vision of a just and fair community for everyone.

Creating a Circle of Dignity in the Fight to End Poverty

Members and allies form a circle of dignity at the Let Us Work! Protest in 2006.

The United Workers is a Community of Dignity:
We sustain our community by forming a circle and holding hands in unity. Everyone is welcome into the circle, where we celebrate and advance human dignity. Dignity is unconditional and universal within our circle. We hold on tightly to each other to protect the space within our circle of dignity, but we also extend and expand our circle by working in solidarity with others who value human dignity and who share our vision of ending poverty.  The circle is like life, open and growing, not static or cut off.

We come together as community, respectful of our differences and diverse cultures, and united by our belief that every person is born equally worthy of unconditional respect and universal dignity. We prepare and eat meals together, sing and make music together, support each other in time of need, listen and learn from each other, reflect and grow together and form loving relationships together.  We intentionally provide space, time and process for forming trusting relationships, for learning together and for working in unity for common purpose.  We do not expect to always agree, and we cherish diverse points of view and ways of being.  In our diversity is our strength, just as we are made stronger by our common bond of belief that every person is born a sacred human being.

We believe that poverty is an affront to human dignity, and that this requires that we work together to create an economy free from poverty.  We work to create a community centered on the values of love, respect, dignity and equity.  We strive to live out these values in our life and in our work as a human rights organization led by the poor.  We are part of the movement to end poverty and focus all our efforts on the vision of ending poverty and a just society for all.

Poverty Scholarship and Leadership Development

Lighting candles at the Fair Food Solidarity Tour 2009.

Leadership Development, Poverty Scholarship and Human Rights Education:

The core of our mission is to identify and support human rights leaders from our communities, across color lines and language barriers.  We are united in our values and strengthened by our diversity.  Leadership development is our first priority.  We engage in educational programs on a year-round and continual basis, including through the following programs and initiatives:

  • Arts and Culture Program
    Members document human rights issues, share different cultures, express themselves through music, sight and word and develop literacy and communication skills.

Justice Theater Conference 2010

  • Poverty Scholars Program
    One year paid education program that combines community organizing field work with intense scholarship.  Participants a reflect on history, economics and the meanings of justice.

2009-10 Graduation Ceremony

  • New Organizers Program
    Advance two-year education program on community organizing and reflective leadership.  Participants take a leading role in the organization while learning about the history of movements, justice and human rights. Practical skills in mediation, facilitation, media and communications and leadership are the backbone of the program.

Fair Food Solidarity Tour

  • Leadership Council and Leadership Day
    Members elect leaders to the Leadership Council at the annual Leadership Day.  The Leadership Council is the decision making body of the organization and is composed entirely of low-wage and unpaid workers. This is our primary “learn by leading” program, with one-on-one supports provided to members in the running of a community organization for social and economic justice.

Teamwork activity at 2010 Leadership Day

  • Solidarity Programs
    Solidarity programs include working with other poor people’s organizations, participation in Poverty Initiative at Union Theological Seminary, and taking part in solidarity actions with allies.  Human rights are universal and transformative values, which we believe calls for a movement to end poverty, led by the poor.  Movement building is a major part of our leadership development programs.

Picket with UNITE HERE

  • Staying on Track Retreat, Looking Forward Retreat and Human Rights Tours
    Once or twice a year we take time out to reflect on the meaning of human rights, economic justice, fair development and community organizing.  Members join together in intensive reflections and skill development exercises at the Staying on Track Retreat and Looking Forward Retreat.  We also go on Human Rights Tours to visit neighboring cities and organizations to learn more about our connected struggles and stand with others for universal justice.

Looking Forward Retreat 2008


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