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1 Introduction Over the past half century, the international flow of goods, services, and capital has grown rapidly. Globalization creates new economic, cultural, and social opportunities, but also poses the challenge of ensuring that workers throughout the world share in these opportunities. Responding to this challenge, the U.S. government carries out a variety of policies and programs aimed at encouraging greater recognition of worker rights around the globe.1 The U.S. Department of State monitors worker rights abroad and reports on the status of those rights as part of its annual report to Congress in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. Building on this history of monitoring and encouraging worker rights around the world, the Trade Act of 2002 includes on the list of overall trade negotiating objectives of the United States, “promote respect for worker rights.”2 1 For example, U.S. laws governing the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) include provisions promoting worker rights. The GSP program is designed to boost the economies of some of the least developed nations by providing preferential, duty-free entry for more than 4,650 products from approximately 140 designated countries and territories. OPIC, a government agency, issues political risk insurance and loans to help U.S. businesses invest and compete in emerging markets and developing nations. By law, countries or companies that fail to provide workers with internationally recognized worker rights may be ineligible for GSP and/or OPIC benefits. More information on the GSP and OPIC programs can be found at <www.ustr.gov/gsp/general.shtml> and <www.opic.gov> [1/27/2003]. 2 H.R. 3009, the Trade Act of 2002, Subtitle B, Section 2102.
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Carrying out this commitment to worker rights requires an understanding of labor conditions and country-level compliance with international labor standards. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has contracted with the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academies to enhance its understanding of these issues. The NRC has convened the Committee on Monitoring International Labor Standards to provide expert, science-based advice on monitoring compliance with international labor standards. The committee has undertaken a two-year project with multiple intersecting activities that will identify relevant, valid, reliable, and useful sources of country-level data on labor standards and incorporate them into a database tailored to the current and anticipated needs of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB); assess the quality of existing and potential data and indicators that can be used to systematically monitor labor practices and the effectiveness of enforcement in order to determine compliance with national labor legislation and international standards; identify innovative measures to determine compliance with international labor standards on a country-by-country basis and to measure progress on improved labor legislation and enforcement; explore the relationship between labor standards compliance and national policies relating to human capital issues; and recommend sustainable reporting procedures to monitor countries’ progress toward implementation of international labor standards. The NRC will examine compliance with the international labor standards in the ILO’s 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at work (see Appendix D), and also acceptable conditions of work, as defined in U.S. trade law, including wages, hours, and occupational safety and health. To assist the committee in its work, the Wharton School’s Center for Human Resources of the University of Pennsylvania hosted two public forums designed to illuminate methods for monitoring compliance with the four core labor standards set forth in the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work of the International Labour Organization (ILO), as well as the “acceptable conditions of work” standard defined in U.S. trade law. The intent of these forums was to enable three groups—unions, employers, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)—to present their
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views and their strategies for, and difficulties encountered in, implementing and monitoring compliance with these five international labor standards. At the forums, which were held in New York and Los Angeles in September 2002, each of the panelists made 20-minute presentations. At the conclusion of each morning and afternoon session, there was a question-and-answer period during which the moderator, panelists, and public attendees could ask questions. In order to provide the most accurate and detailed account of what was said at the two forums, this report contains a separate section for each of the 25 speakers. Although this organization benefits the reader by clearly delineating the thoughts of each speaker and by providing a complete picture of each presentation, it may make it more difficult to discern the emergent themes and to compare the differing viewpoints of the speakers across topic areas. In order to overcome this gap, the report begins with a summary discussion of five significant topics that emerged from the forums. These five topics—codes of conduct, compliance, monitoring, reporting, and the National Academies database—are of primary relevance to the committee’s charge and have been singled out for special treatment at the beginning of the report. Following a summary discussion of the five topics are the details of the individual presentations, organized into three chapters that reflect the three types of organizations that were involved in the forums—trade unions, employers, and NGOs. For each of the individual presentations, the report briefly describes the speaker’s organization, outlines the key points he or she made, and then summarizes the presentation itself. Finally, the report includes summaries of the question-and-answer sessions for both forums. Five appendices present additional background material. Although members of the Committee on Monitoring International Labor Standards identified speakers to attend the forums, they did not participate in writing this summary. This summary does not contain any deliberations, conclusions, or recommendations of the committee.
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