Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Steve Charnovitz (George Washington) has posted on SSRN his article in the American Journal of International Law: The ILO Convention on Freedom of Association and its Future in the United States.
Here is the abstract:
This paper addresses the status of the international law convention on freedom of association in the United States. Although the United States supported the adoption of the Convention on Freedom of Association (#87) in the International Labour Organization in 1948, the U.S. government has not ratified that Convention. Instead, the Convention has sat on the shelf in the United States Senate since 1949, the longest unratified convention on the treaty calendar of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The paper analyzes the disadvantages for the United States in failing to become a party to this important treaty. The paper notes that in 2007, the United States did move forward to support freedom of association as an international right by incorporating a commitment toward freedom of association in four free trade agreements involving Peru, Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. So far, only the Peru treaty has been approved by the U.S. Congress. As a result, U.S. conduct within the trading system is inconsistent than U.S. conduct in the labor regime. Oddly, U.S. government seems willing to make international commitments on freedom of association as part of a trade treaty, but not as part of a labor treaty. This is a counterintuitive result for those who see international organizations as being specialized and international law as being compartmentalized. The paper reflects on how this situation came about and makes suggestions for how the next Administration and the Congress might proceed to strengthen commitments to international law labor within the United States.
Two thoughts on this paper: I can almost hear my friend Dennis Nolan exclaim that the ILO and international labor law does not matter in the United States. I tend to disagree and believe there is at least an indirect process of sharing between foreign and American labor and employment law.
The second thought is that with a potential Obama administration and a sizeable majority in the Senate, ILO Convention #87 may not be on the "yet-to-be-acted-on" list much longer. Anyway, here's hoping.