Document Type

Article

Publication Title

University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law

Publication Date

2017

Abstract

This article examines in depth an important but underappreciated development in international labor law: how norms promulgated by the International Labor Organization (ILO) have affected the development and implementation of domestic labor laws and practices since the early 1990s. The newly globalized focus of labor law—energized by substantial expansions in international trade and investment—has been recognized by scholars, practitioners, and governments, but it has not previously been explored and analyzed in this systematic way. The article focuses on two central regulatory areas—child labor and freedom of association—and relies on doctrinal and policy developments in these areas, as evidenced by the actions of legislatures, courts, and executive branches in more than 20 countries. In doing so, the article addresses how international labor standards have influenced national labor law and practice in the Americas (excluding the U.S.)—directly through the soft-law route of convention ratification and ILO supervisory monitoring, and indirectly through trade agreement labor provisions that incorporate ILO norms. The resultant changes in domestic laws and practices have been evolutionary rather than transformative, and developments in law outpace those in practice, but within these parameters the changes have been substantial. The article then places this internationalizing trend in the context of two recognized theories that seek to explain the socialization of human rights law.

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