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Making the World Safe for WorkersLabor, the Left, and Wilsonian Internationalism$
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Elizabeth McKillen

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780252037870

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252037870.001.0001

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Making the World Safe for Workers?

Making the World Safe for Workers?

The AFL, Wilson, and the Creation of the ILO at Versailles

(p.181) Chapter 6 Making the World Safe for Workers?
Making the World Safe for Workers

Elizabeth McKillen

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines the role of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and Woodrow Wilson in the creation of the International Labor Organization (ILO) as an affiliate to the League of Nations at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919. It begins with a discussion of the Bern conference in Switzerland and AFL President Samuel Gompers's travel to Paris to chair the Commission on International Labor Legislation that established ILO and framed a bill of labor rights for the Versailles Peace Treaty. The chapter then considers the conflict between Europe and the United States over the labor provisions of the peace treaty and the ILO, along with the opposition coming from labor groups and left-leaning diaspora political coalitions. It also analyzes Gompers's campaign in defense of the entire Versailles “package,” including his proposed labor conventions involving the AFL, the Pan American Federation of Labor, and the International Federation of Trade Unions. Finally, it describes Wilson's support for ILO and its labor provisions as part of his efforts to incorporate respectable labor into international governance.

Keywords:   labor rights, American Federation of Labor, Woodrow Wilson, International Labor Organization, League of Nations, Versailles Peace Conference, Samuel Gompers, Commission on International Labor Legislation, Versailles Peace Treaty, Bern conference

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