Bureau of International Labor Affairs

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United States
Bureau of International Labor Affairs
USDOL Seal circa 2015.svg
Bureau overview
FormedOctober 10, 1947
HeadquartersFrances Perkins Building
Annual budget$83 million (2009) [1]
Bureau executives
Parent Bureau United States Department of Labor
Website https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab

The Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) is an operating unit of the United States Department of Labor which manages the department's international responsibilities. According to its mission statement:


“The Bureau of International Labor Affairs leads the U.S. Department of Labor's efforts to ensure that workers around the world are treated fairly and are able to share in the benefits of the global economy. ILAB's mission is to improve global working conditions, raise living standards, protect workers' ability to exercise their rights, and address the workplace exploitation of children and other vulnerable populations. Our efforts help to ensure a fair playing field for American workers and contribute to stronger export markets for goods made in the United States.” [2]

ILAB promotes the economic security and stability of United States workers in international affairs and provides advice and statistics on policy decisions which have U.S. labor concerns. The Bureau also represents the United States at trade negotiations and at international bodies like the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It also provides technical assistance to foreign countries in the interest of benefiting the United States and additionally works with other government agencies to combat child labor and human trafficking abroad and in the United States. [3]

The Bureau of International Labor Affairs is located in the Frances Perkins Building, Room S-2235, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20210. It is currently under the direction of Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs Martha Newton.


The Bureau of International Labor Affairs was formed October 10, 1947, during the administration of President Harry S. Truman under the direction of Lewis B. Schwellenbach as a means to formally institutionalize the international directives of the Department of Labor. [4] Since its creation, ILAB has helped pass the Trade Agreements Act of 1979, aided the introduction of the United States of America into the International Labour Organization (ILO), and administered the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC), the portion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which dealt with trade relations and required the establishment of a department in each member state to provide information about labor conditions in that country.

Child labor, human trafficking and forced labor

In 1993, the United States Congress directed the Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich at the time, to identify foreign industries and countries which export goods to the United States which were produced using child labor. Responsibility for this project was given to ILAB which published the first of its reports on the subject: The Sweat and Toil of Children: The Use of Child Labor in American Imports. [3]

In 1999, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13126 which prohibited the purchase of items which were produced by forced or indentured labor. It also authorized the Department of Labor to compile a list of items and their respective countries which would be banned. This fell under the purview of the Bureau of International Labor Affairs. [5] The current list, as compiled by ILAB, consists of 31 products including bamboo, beans, cocoa, coffee, nuts, rice, rubber, shrimp, and sugarcane. [5] The products come from countries such as Afghanistan, Argentina, Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Burma, China, Colombia, Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Ivory Coast, Mali, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Sierra Leone, Tajikistan, Thailand and Uzbekistan. [5] As of 2004, ILAB has spent more than $250 million to combat child labor since 1995. [1]

On April 10, 2009, the Bureau of International Labor Affairs announced a letter of intent to "Fund International Child Labor Elimination Projects in Fiscal Year 2009" this involves the awarding of merit-based "cooperative agreement awards" to organizations seeking to fund projects to combat child labor through education. It is intended that $20 million be budgeted for this purpose. These efforts will be focused in the countries of Guatemala, Indonesia, Nepal, and Rwanda.

International technical cooperation

ILAB provides technical assistance with other countries in the areas of technical expertise, worker health, and working conditions with the goal of benefiting U.S. foreign policy. This program began in the aftermath of World War II when the Department of Labor taught German trade unionists to assist in European reconstruction efforts.

In 1975, ILAB worked with the Government of Saudi Arabia to develop a vocational training program and in 1989, after the passage of the Support for Eastern European Democracy Act (SEED), ILAB aided economies that were transitioning to a more open economic system to develop labor markets. [6] Additionally, ILAB has undertaken various social initiatives globally including a $10 million project to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS in workers. These initiatives are all aimed at providing stability to an interconnected global economy in which labor issues in foreign countries can have negative effects in the United States. [1]


See also

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Lewis B. Schwellenbach American judge

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  1. 1 2 3 Bureau of International Labor Affairs, "Bureau of International Labor Affairs Assessment" Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Accessed 25 June 2013.
  2. United States. Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB). "Bureau of International Labor Affairs Mission Statement" Archived 2016-04-15 at the Wayback Machine Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Accessed 10 April 2014.
  3. 1 2 United States. Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB).Bureau of International Labor Affairs: A Brief Outline of Principal Activities. Washington, DC: Department of Labor, 1994.
  4. United States. Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB). "Lewis B. Schwellenbach" Archived 2008-09-29 at the Wayback Machine , Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Accessed 25 June 2013.
  5. 1 2 3 United States. Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB). "Executive Order 13126" Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, 2013. Accessed 25 June 2013
  6. United States. Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB). "International Cooperation Program" Archived January 7, 2009, at the Wayback Machine Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, 2013, Accessed 25 June 2013.