In This Review

Defining Global Justice: The History of U.S. International Labor Standards Policy
Defining Global Justice: The History of U.S. International Labor Standards Policy
By Edward C. Lorenz
University of Notre Dame Press, 2001, 360 pp

This useful review of American attitudes toward international labor standards starts with World War I and the creation of the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 1919. It follows with the U.S. accession to the ILO in 1934, the important 1944 Philadelphia Declaration on labor rights, the temporary U.S. withdrawal from the ILO in 1977, and finally the international reaffirmation and extension of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work in 1998. Much of the book focuses on U.S. decision-making, emphasizing its incremental nature and its distinctively American openness to diverse civic groups such as labor unions, business groups, churches, and academics.

It usefully discusses the movement toward national labor standards within the United States in the 1920s and 1930s, the U.S. failure to ratify many of the ILO conventions, and the divisions within American labor on the ILO. Despite its title, the book nowhere defines "justice," but Lorenz implicitly identifies it with enforceable international labor standards rather than mere declarations of labor rights. In his view, these standards should include, inter alia, free labor unions, the abolition of child labor, and a meaningful minimum wage.