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John Rawls’s Theory of Justice is the most influential work of political philosophy of recent times. Rawls does not, however, consider the issue of labour rights. This paper considers the applicability of the rights of workers to join unions, bargain collectively, and to strike under Rawls’s theory, in the context of empirical research showing how individuals are, in practice, best protected at work. We argue that, in developed countries at least, Rawls’s theory supports the core rights of workers to organize, strike and bargain collectively with employers, under a combination of Rawls’s first and second principles of justice. We then consider the international dimension, discussing how labour rights are to be viewed internationally both under Rawls’s own international theory in his Law of Peoples, and under globalist interpretations of his theory of justice.

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