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7/2/2012 - Agawam Public Library Art exhibit for the month of July

For the month of July, the Agawam Public Library is pleased to display the Human Rights Posters collection of Stephen Lewis.  The posters of this exhibit speak to the basic human rights of people that are recognized by the United Nations as rights that are universal and should be afforded to all human beings. There are 30 rights as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as established by the UN.  These rights include:  the right to be free from torture, the right to choose ones religion, the right to equal pay for equal work, the right to form and join trade unions, and the right to work.

                Posters will be available from two groups:  Amnesty International and labor unions.  Amnesty International is recognized as the foremost organization dedicated to protecting and defending human rights.  They publicize human rights violations around the world.  By exposing and embarrassing a government, Amnesty successfully stops the torture of an individual or wins his or her freedom. Amnesty also works to abolish the death penalty. This is in keeping with Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

                Labor union activists are frequently the victims of human rights violations and therefore often the targets of campaigns to defend their rights. The nature of the work of unions is to win better pay and working conditions for their members and for workers in general. Because of this activity, they often challenge the interests of wealthy and powerful people. Union leaders are frequently fired from their jobs, arrested for picketing, blacklisted from work, and too often thrown in jail, assaulted and tortured. They suffer from these attacks even though they have not broken any laws. In the United States, in 2011, the Governor of Wisconsin became a human rights violator when he took away collective bargaining rights for public employees. He was in circumvention of Article 23 of the declaration of Human Rights.

                Amnesty International and labor unions have overlapping interests in the work they do. Even when the victim of human rights violations is a politician, on many occasions he or she is targeted because of his or her stance in protection of workers’ rights. Salvador Allende, a former president of Chile, was murdered by Chilean soldiers partially for his government’s support for working people. Lula do Silva, the former president of Brazil, was once imprisoned by the military dictatorship in that country. He was a union activist and leader prior to his imprisonment. Subsequent to the end of the dictatorship, he was elected president of the country.

                The posters are from a collection of more than 3800 of Stephen Lewis. He is a long-time activist in the labor movement and is currently the Treasurer of Service Employees International Union, Local 509. He may be reached by email at lewisposters@gmail.com and on Facebook. The posters were contributed by friends and collected at conferences, visits to some of the organizations, and from connections made through the Internet.

Contact:                Joanne Szelag, (413)789-1550 x8851; jszelag@agawamlibrary.org