Hazard or Hardship

Crafting Global Norms on the Right to Refuse Unsafe Work

By: Jeffrey Hilgert

216 pp



Today, hazardous work kills 2.3 million people each year and injures millions more. Among the most compelling yet controversial forms of legal protection for workers is the right to refuse unsafe work. The rise of globalization, precarious work, neo-liberal politics, attacks on unions, and the idea of individual employment rights have challenged the protection of occupational health and safety for workers worldwide. In Hazard or Hardship, Jeffrey Hilgert presents the protection of refusal rights as a moral and a human rights question.

Hilgert finds that the protection of the right to refuse unsafe work, as constituted under international labor standards, is a failure and calls for a reexamination of worker health and safety policy from the ground up. The current model of protection follows an individual employment rights framework, which fails to protect workers against the inherent social inequalities within the employment relationship. To adequately protect the right to refuse as a human right, both in North America and around the world, Hilgert argues that a broader protection must be granted under a freedom of association framework. Hazard or Hardship will be a welcome resource for labor and environmental activists, trade union leaders, labor lawyers and labor law scholars, industrial relations experts, human rights advocates, public health professionals, and specialists in occupational safety and health.

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Introduction: Commodified Workers and the International Response

  1. Human Rights and the Struggle to Define Hazards
  2. Theoretical Perspectives on Individual Employment Rights
  3. The Right to Refuse in International Labor Law
  4. How Effective Are Convention 155 Refusal Rights?
  5. Ideological Origins of the Global Framework
  6. Negotiating "Safe" Rights versus Seeking Social Justice

Conclusion: The Future of Labor Rights in the Working Environment