WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor led the nation’s delegation to the 2023 International Labor Conference in Geneva from June 5 to 16, 2023.
Led by the department’s Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs Thea Lee, the delegation sought to promote and protect workers’ rights globally. The key achievements at the conference included:
- Negotiation of a new international labor standard on apprenticeships.
- Escalation of pressure on Belarus to respect workers’ rights.
- Resolutions on just transition and labor protection.
- Adoption of the International Labor Organization’s 2024-25 Program and Budget.
“We emerged from the International Labor Conference with the program and budget intact; a strong commitment from the ILO to fight discrimination in the world of work against all people, including LGBTQI+ persons; a reinforced struggle for workers’ rights in Belarus; and a new ILO standard on apprenticeship, among many other important accomplishments,” said Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs Thea Lee.
During the conference, the U.S. delegation supported a resolution that invites all ILO constituents to review their relations with the country of Belarus given its failure to protect workers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. The resolution invokes Article 33 in the organization’s constitution — the highest ILO recourse available — for just the second time in the organization’s 100-year history.
The U.S. delegation achieved strong language on the importance of freedom of association and collective bargaining rights in the conclusions of discussions on labor protection and just transition. The conference also endorsed ILO Guidelines for a just transition, elevating these guidelines as the central policymaking reference and supporting efforts to ensure workers have a strong voice in the transition to a green economy.
In addressing the Committee on the Application of Standards, the delegation made statements on the implementation of ILO conventions in Cambodia, Guatemala, Indonesia, the Philippines and Turkmenistan. Responding to the ILO’s General Survey report on Gender Equality at Work, the delegation called on the ILO to take measures to make sure that all workers – no matter their sex, gender identity or sexual orientation – can participate fully and equitably in the world of work.
At the International Labor Organization’s World of Work summit on social justice at the conference, Deputy Undersecretary Lee spoke on a panel on trade and labor, underscoring the importance of leveraging trade to promote respect for worker rights.