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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.

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GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 409

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