On December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The rights enshrined therein—among them equality before the law and equal access to public services—were deemed to be held in common by all human beings.

The already longstanding global struggle to defend those rights is confronted by new challenges in the time of COVID-19.

This year’s Human Rights Day is a chance to name the threats the pandemic poses to those for whom the promises of the Declaration remain as yet unfulfilled.

Suffice to say, the impacts of the disease, and those of the associated economic downturn, have not been felt equally.

Indigenous, Black, and racialized people, already bound by intersecting coils of social exclusion and economic deprivation, have suffered disproportionate impacts to their lives and livelihoods.

And where reasonable safeguards implemented by governments were met with outrage by the privileged, little heed was paid to the workers, families, and communities crying out for more than the pittance right-wing governments have been willing to provide.

The rights of large corporations—already best positioned to weather the storm—have been further entrenched by politicians ideologically incapable of passing compassionate public policy or defending basic public services.

Throughout the pandemic, wealthy companies and individuals have hid well behind the front-line workers on whose labour their profits, and our society, depends—all the while fighting wage increases and paying a fraction of a fraction of what they owe to the public purse.

But the time for these debts to be paid has come due. On this Human Rights Day, CUPE Ontario is mindful that a discussion about human rights is not and cannot be a discussion divorced from economic rights. Workers rights ARE human rights.

On Human Rights Day, CUPE Ontario renews its pledge to be a steadfast ally in the fight for a fair system that champions the human and economic rights of all—both for the duration of this pandemic and beyond.