The United Nations European headquarters at Geneva. Advocates want the UN’s human rights panel to examine the problem of unemployment in America.

Photo by: Yann via Wikipedia Commons

The United Nations European headquarters at Geneva. Advocates want the UN’s human rights panel to examine the problem of unemployment in America.

High unemployment among black Americans means the United States has failed to live up to commitments it made under United Nations human rights agreements, a coalition of advocacy groups charges.

In a filing to the UN’s Human Rights Council last week, a group that includes New York’s Urban Justice Center and National Employment Law Project, as well as the Atlanta Labor Council and D.C. Professional Taxicab Drivers Association, casts “the over-representation of women and racial and ethnic minorities in unemployment, underemployment, and poverty” as a human rights issue and calls on Washington “to take specific steps to create employment opportunities for these groups.”

The latest unemployment figures show a stark racial disparity. White men were unemployed at a 9.6 percent rate. For black men, the figure was 20.2 percent. Latino men posted a 13. 8 percent rate, Asian men only 7.7 percent. Rates for women followed the same racial and ethnic pattern, but were lower than that for men of the same ethnic group.

As City Limits reports in its latest issue, black male joblessness has run far higher than whites’ for decades, owing to a combination of factors including educational deficits, a loss of jobs in industries that employed blacks, the movement of industry to suburbs and overseas and racial discrimination.

The UN filing argues that the U.S. has “has failed to meet obligations in the United Nations Charter,” and specifically faults the 2009 federal stimulus bill, or American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).”Additionally, the failure of ARRA to target vulnerable populations in job creation does not reflect the government’s obligations under … the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination.”

The office of the U.S. permanent mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment.

The submission acknowledges positive developments in the United States, like the passage of healthcare reform and the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which sought to reduce pay disparities between men and women. But it claims that the United States’ anti-discrimination laws, provisions for pregnant women in the workplace and collecting bargaining rights fail to meet international standards.

Discussing the existing infrastructure of laws and policies aimed to reduce unemployment and workplace discrimination, the report finds: “The problem with this institutional framework is that it has failed to achieve any lasting progress in securing either the right to work or the right to income security in the United States over the past several decades.” It adds: “This failure is particularly evident for African Americans and Latinos, as well as for women, and calls into question the adequacy of its institutional framework for achieving compliance with its human rights obligations in this area.”

The submission is aimed to coincide with a periodic Human Rights Council review of the rights records of all member countries.

To respond to the joblessness problem, the submission proposes policy changes including direct job creation, targeting help to distressed communities and relaxed welfare eligibility rules.

Other signatories of the report include the Women of Color Policy Network, New York Jobs with Justice, Common Cause/NY, Applied Research Center, Domestic Workers United, 9to5 National Association of Working Women, Center for Family Life in Sunset Park, Urban Agenda, International Worker Justice Campaign, Good Jobs New York, South Austin Coalition, AFRODES, Atlanta Public Sector Alliance and Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York.