Ed Potter, who serves as Counsel for USCIB, took part in a high-profile discussion on April 12 hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The discussion was part of a broader set of meetings in 2019 celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the International Labor Organization (ILO). The event last week, entitled “Shaping the World of Work: U.S. Engagement with the ILO,” focused on the instrumental role of U.S. Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins in leading the United States to join its first multilateral institution in 1934 – the ILO.
The event also featured U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, Director-General of the ILO Guy Ryder, Director of the International Department of the AFL-CIO Cathy Feingold, and author of “The Woman Behind the New Deal,” Kristin Downey.
Reflecting on the role the ILO plays in the world, Secretary Acosta noted in particular the ILO’s standard setting role and its work to highlight and address unacceptable child and forced labor practices in a number of countries around the world. Such poor labor practices also unfairly disadvantage U.S. businesses that prioritize doing business the right way with appropriate labor practices. On this point, Secretary Acosta stated, “free trade needs to include fair trade, and that means certain levels of labor standards that are enforced across the board, maintained, and that really should be prerequisites.”
Panelists reflected not only on the ILO’s history and achievements, but also looked ahead towards the ILO’s next hundred years and the role the ILO can play in addressing future priorities. Reflecting on the ILO’s unique governance structure in which governments, employers and workers all must come together for consensus decision-making, Potter stressed, “You can not underestimate the strength of the tripartite system that holds the ship together.” In terms of key milestones from a U.S. employer’s perspective, Potter cited the ILO’s 1944 Declaration of Philadelphia and the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work as formative frameworks which are all the more relevant today – especially as the ILO looks towards its next century.
This upcoming June, some 6,000 ILO tripartite constituents will come together again at the ILO International Labor Conference to negotiate, among other items, a new ILO declaration focusing in broad strokes on its next 100 years.
“USCIB will participate actively again, representing U.S. employers, constructively engaging, and playing a key role in these critical deliberations to steer the ILO “ship” towards the next century,” said Gabriella Rigg Herzog, who leads USCIB’s work on labor policy.
See below for the panel discussion: