ILO Urges that U.S. Stop Violating International Obligations It Hasn’t Agreed To

by Julian Ku

Here is a nice example of how international organizations and international lawyers can conspire to make international law seem ridiculous.

Bus and subway workers had a right to strike in 2005 and their leader was wrongly jailed, a United Nations agency has found.

The International Labor Organization said the state’s Taylor Law, which makes it illegal for public workers in New York to walk off the job, violates core principals expressed in international law — and a treaty ratified by the U. S. Senate.

Fines imposed on workers and Transport Workers Union Local 100 should be returned, and former Local 100 President Roger Toussaint should be “compensated” for his short jail stint, according to the agency’s decision.

A copy of the report can be found here. I am not an international labor lawyer, but I wonder at the report’s blithe assertion that public transportation workers do not provide “essential services” justifying limitation on their ability to strike. But more to the point, the report does not allege that the U.S. has violated any international obligations that it actually agreed to or that it is bound to comply with under customary international law.  Nor does the complaint here seem to make this argument either, since it ultimately calls on the U.S. to ratify the relevant treaties. I am flattered that the complaint cites my work as evidence that state governments have an independent power to determine how to comply with international law.  I think that is right, I just don’t think that the U.S. or New York has agreed to follow principles of international law that have not been alleged to have achieved the status of customary law.

The ILO knows this, or should know this. It is counterproductive and slightly ridiculous to issue a report chiding the U.S. government for not abiding by obligations that it is not bound to abide by.  The only result here it to lessen, rather than increase, respect for the efficacy and importance of international law.

2 Responses

  1. Hear, hear.

  2. The ILO statement obviously reflects the frustration felt be UN bureaucrats that they do not control the biggest and most powerful nation in the world. The Taylor law was enacted by a popularly elected body chosen by the people living in the area directly affected by the legislation. This cannot be said of the conventions 87 and 98. All the same, the UN, acting through the ILO, feels that it should be able to pre-empt the Taylor law. Given that the UN is supposed to be in favor (to put it mildly) of government by the people, there is a blatant self-contradiction here.

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