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William A. Douglas, John-Paul Ferguson et Erin Klett (2004), "An Effective Confluence of Forces in Support of Workers’ Rights : ILO Standards, US Trade Laws, Unions and NGOs", Human Rights Quarterly, no. 26 ; 273-299

18 mars 2004

This article addresses the common view that the International Labor Organization (ILO), despite its valuable contributions of labor setting standards, monitoring compliance and providing technical assistance, has no enforcement mechanism. The authors take issue with this view, arging instead that the ILO, when combined with the reconnaissance of local trade unions and NGOs and the leverage of US trade legislation, can make incremental progress in reducing labor violations. The article examines six countries in which this confluence has proven effective : Bangladesh, the Domincan Republic, El Savador, Guatemala, Korea, and Swaziland. Although the labor situations were different in each country — for example, rampant child labor violations in Bangladesh, the use of military force in the Domincan Republic to compel Haitians to work on sugar plantations, etc. — improvements occurred in each case when local NGOs and unions publicized the abuses and then persuaded the U.S. Trade Representative to threaten to withhold tariff preferences. The ILO was then summoned to assist in compliance and to monitor and report on conditions. Though the process has not worked seamlessly, the three-pronged strategy has proven to be effective in improving working standards in the six countries discussed.

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