A placated United States is back in the International Labor Organization (ILO), from which it withdrew in 1977. "We got most of what we were demanding," says Michael Boggs, an AFL-CIO participant on the President's task force set up to determine the United State's future relationship with the UN world agency.
At the same time there has also been a notable shift in the world climate. The United States withdrew from the ILO three years ago because it charged that decisions in the organization were dominated by a communist and third-world voting bloc that had an anti-American bias.
According to the Americans there is solid evidence to indicate that 1977 marked the peak of hostility to the US in the UN system and that there now is a general realization by developing countries "that everyone had gone too far, that they had miscalculated."
Assistant Secretary of State Charles W. Maynes, representing the State Department, which initially opposed withdrawal, acknowledged that the pullout tactic has strengthened the US position in the ILO. One gain he noted was the emerge of a group of American allies known as the Industrialized Market Economy Countries (IMEC).
American participants are hopeful that the IMEC will protect the interests of WEstern states as well as their trade-union and management groups.
In making the reentry recommendation, the President's committee noted that over the past two years the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Poland have come under embarrassing criticism stemming from noncompliance with ILO human-rights and labor treaties that they ratified.
In a rare move of censure, the ILO voted to publicize its case against Czechoslovakia. The East European state was under investigation for discriminatory action taken against workers who had signed the Charter 77 manifesto, a document supporting the political and human rights guaranteed in international covenants ratified by Czechoslovakia. The ILO is continuing its investigation of Soviet and Polish violations of trade-union rights.
Last June at the ILO's annual international labor conference, the IMEC group, allied with many worker and employer delegates from developing countries, unexpectedly succeeded in pushing through the conference a provision to add secret-ballot voting.
This provision is expected to ensure greater independence for worker and management delegates from nondemocratic states who otherwise might be inclined to toe their government's line.
Now that the US has reentered, it will press for an amendment to the ILO's constitution to enable the organization to screen out political resolutions, such as those that in the past have condemned Israel without regard to due process. However, in the last two years the ILO has succeeded in blocking condemnatory resolutions against Israel.
Furthermore, the United States has said it will oppose growing pressure by the Soviet Union to weaken the ILO's ability to monitor compliance with its treaty obligations, including those relating to human rights.
The US will also find itself under mounting pressure to yield to compromises to strengthen the role of developing countries in the ILO's executive council and to shift more authority from the executive council to the annual labor conference, where the developing countries already have a majority. This is likely to lead to a decline in Western influence.