Communities plagued by generations of harm understand the immense pressure of living under oppressive systems and simultaneously attempting to achieve some semblance of normalcy and comfort. As people of privilege are finally stepping into a long-overdue consciousness of labor and social relations, we must seize this opportunity to formalize organizational justice principles many have sought for lifetimes. Racial capitalism has created colossal problems for humanity and our planet, and to ignore that is nothing short of oppression. We created the following Organizational Justice Bill of Rights to contribute to the existing literature in the fields of organizational justice; labor rights; and diversity, equity, inclusion; with the goal of fostering a healthier collective relationship with our work and workplaces.
In this document, we define a right as a principle of human liberation and dignity that should be afforded to all. It is one that should transcend cultural norms, particularly those that were formed over time through systems and structures of power through colonization. That being said, the following rights should be enshrined in all areas of the talent lifecycle.
The following primer is a living list of items that can and will be amended with additional information and feedback. The ultimate goal is to co-create ways of being that allow for multiple values to co-exist in healthy organizations.
Our labor is sacred and because of this, we have the right to feel good about what we produce and how we produce it. Under no circumstances should we feel that our work is owned or controlled by any person or entity, outside of ourselves. We have the right to exchange our skills in ways that afford us greater agency in making choices about our contributions to our organizations, without feeling exploited in the process. This requires a work schedule that is fair that adjusts for both employee and organizational needs. This also includes fair compensation for any work that is beyond what is initially agreed upon or determined in the job description.
As participants in the workplace community–where our labor input determines organizational success–it is only natural that we share in the rewards earned from our collective input. The value of the goods and services produced are determined primarily by labor input. Labor is the core of production value. Whether one is driven by morality or utilitarianism, it is easy to see that we deserve to each be rewarded for the product of our labor, which means proportionately distributing rewards for good work. In profit-maximizing organizations, this means sharing in the profit. In nonprofit organizations and government, this means being recognized and rewarded proportionate to our input and the value of our output.
If one is sharing their labor in a growing organization, then they have the right to grow with it. One of the most oppressive organizational behaviors one can experience is the extraction of labor without being provided opportunities to grow professionally and learn new skills. Stagnation is oppression.
We have the right to experience the fruits of our labor, and on our terms. This includes the right to determine what success looks like for us. In hierarchical organizations, this means fair opportunities for the type of advancement we’re seeking. In flatter organizations, growth can be determined through experience, deference, and tenure; and results more in influence (informal power) through experience, rather than job title or role (formal power).
Professionally growth can and must be achieved equitably. If organizational equity rests on two pillars–the breaking of barriers and the allocation of resources–then ensuring a distribution of growth opportunities for each individual in our organization must be intentionally designed and barriers strategically mitigated. Growth barriers include, but are not limited to: racialization, lack of focus on accessibility that harms individuals with disabilities, an absence of gender inclusive and culturally relevant values, biased decision-making, as well as life-long systemic barriers to accessing skills and competencies more readily available to privileged communities.
Organizations have a duty to allocate the right resources to mitigate the effects of systems of oppression that result in these local systemic barriers to growth.
As unique individuals with unique individual and cultural needs, universal benefits packages are not enough. Not only do we deserve a thriving wage in whatever location we are in, but we also deserve culturally relevant benefits packages that cater to those unique needs. Are our employee benefits (e.g., healthcare) inclusive of our gender identity and sexual orientation? Are we given time to celebrate cultural events and holidays? Are we given the flexibility to slow down output during times of fasting or prayer? Are we given benefits that accommodate our unique needs with respect to disabilities, periodic cycles within our bodies, mental health, etc.?
One of the most fundamental institutional rights required to maintain a healthy democracy is the right to express collective power. Our workplaces, as a part of our societies, require this, too. Whether forming a union, an employee resource group/affinity group, or ad hoc organizing for collective bargaining, the right of employees to form connections and advocate for their own needs is a foundational pillar of a healthy work environment. This means that employees should have the ability to not only to organize for the universal collective good, but can organize and advocate for the needs and desires of specific communities represented in the workplace, including racial and ethnic equity, disability justice, and gender inclusive policies and practices.