JUNE 16, 1956
HYDE PARK, N.Y—Everyone, I think must be interested in what has been happening at the meeting of the International Labor Organization in Geneva. This is the first meeting at which the Russians have been represented, and a major difficulty arose at once.
Up to now, each country in the ILO had one representative for labor, one for employers and two for government. But in Russia, there are no independent employers. All industry is government-owned and the manager of each industry is appointed by the government.
Thus we were confronted with the problem of an unequal representation of the Soviet government in the ILO.
Quite naturally, most of the free-world governments said that the ILO committees for employers should not accept any of the Soviet's government-dominated employer representatives since they were government representatives rather than free agents.
This is a very real difficulty and points up the problem of living in a world where there are completely different economic and political setups when countries representing these conflicting philosophies come together for cooperative work.
To an outsider, it would seem that in meetings of employers in the ILO, the Soviets would just have to drop out and bring their influence to bear through their government representatives in other meetings. They certainly cannot attend as independents, representing themselves alone, or as representatives of groups of independent employers in their countries.
Fortunately, there are areas in which these particular difficulties do not prevent cooperation.
Everyone must be watching with great interest the development of an ILO treaty to rule out forced labor in the world. The fact that the Soviets are willing to agree to work on this is almost breathtaking and which, we hope, will result in great internal changes in their country.
The ILO has prepared the way for this treaty by investigations and research which have exposed the evils of forced labor, have shown where there are substandard working conditions and have produced some helpful studies on labor, economic and social conditions.
Too many of us are not conscious of the achievements of the ILO. It has developed an international labor code covering 104 treaties and 100 recommendations defining worldwide minimum labor standards as a guide or obligation for governments, employers and workers.
The ILO has given technical assistance on more than 500 projects aiding workers in 50 countries to learn new jobs, increase their output and develop safety measures and social security systems.
The industrial committees and commissions of the ILO work to solve the problems in special industries or fields, such as the investigation of maritime conditions, of work on plantations, and of standards for women's work.
I particularly like the ILO motto: "Poverty anywhere is a danger to prosperity everywhere."