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The ILO to the Rescue

The world economy is in a dangerous state. In no small measure it is due to the outsourcing of jobs by the leading nations, including the United States. When jobs are outsourced they are moved out of the mother country to lands where cheap, child and even slave labor are available.

What can be done about this? A solution lies in bringing together two international institutions: They are the International Labor Organization and the World Trade Organization. The ILO’s name is misleading. Offhand it can be mistaken as an international organization of unions. But it is not.

The ILO was born as part of the League of Nations, very much at the insistence of our own President Woodrow Wilson who held that there should be an international agency that should protect and promote the conditions of the working people globally. When the League of Nations was replaced by the United Nations, the ILO became part of the U.N.

The way in which the ILO operates is intriguing. Every affiliate country has four representatives, regardless of population. Of the four, two represent their government, one represents the business community and one represents labor. Over the years, the ILO has elaborated a code of conduct covering the right of workers to organize unions, the abolition of slave labor, limits on work hours and on child labor, et al.

The central weakness of the ILO is that it has no power to enforce its proposed policies. What is needed is joint action between the ILO and the WTO because the latter has the power to apply sanctions to any country in violation of the rules of the game.

The ILO will write the rules and the WTO will enforce them.

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