By Pharis Harvey
President Clinton's deal to get Senate support for his Fast Track authority includes a key promise: he would use U.S. leverage at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to press for improved compliance with internationally recognized worker rights in the global economy. Once again, the President is playing loose with the facts. Since 1994, the Sanders-Frank Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act has required the Clinton Administration to use its "voice and vote" to press the World Bank and the IMF to encourage borrowing countries to comply with worker rights standards. (Complete text of law follows).
The 1994 law was sponsored by Representatives Bernie Sanders and Barney Frank. Commonly referred to as the Sanders-Frank Amendment, the law is codified as section 526 (e) of the Foreign Assistance Act. The Clinton Administration, through Secretary of Treasury Rubin, has ignored the requirements of the law AND HAS NEVER PUSHED FOR WORKER RIGHTS AT THE WORLD BANK OR THE IMF.
Currently, the World Bank and IMF are finalizing a U.S.-backed bailout of Indonesia, one of the world's worst offenders of worker rights standards. The Clinton administration has again failed to comply with the existing mandate from Congress and neglected to press Indonesia on worker rights issues. The International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) has complained to Treasury Secretary Rubin about the Clinton Administration's failure to comply with the Sanders-Frank provision in the Indonesia case, and has yet to receive a reply. The ILRF is considering options for getting the Clinton Administration to respect its obligations under the law.
Thus, in short, as part of a desperate offer to salvage Fast Track, the President has promised to do something he was obligated by law to do since 1994, and has repeatedly failed to do. Any Senator who now accepts the President's empty promise in exchange for his or her Fast Track vote would be well served to get some security for the promise.
The text of the 1994 Sanders-Frank Amendment follows:
(a) The Secretary of Treasury shall direct the United States Executive Directors of the International Financial Institutions (as defined in section 1701(c)(2)) to use the voice and vote of the United States to urge the respective institution. -
1) to adopt policies to encourage borrowing countries to guarantee internationally recognized workers rights (within the meaning of section 502(a)(4) of the Trade Act of 1974) and to include the status of such rights as an integral part of the institution's policy dialogue with each borrowing country;
2) in developing the policies referred to in paragraph (1), to use the relevant conventions of the International Labor Organization, which have set forth, among other things, the right of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively, a prohibition on the use of any form of forced or compulsory labor, and certain minimum labor standards that take into account differences in development levels among nations including a minimum age for the employment of children, acceptable conditions of work with respect to minimum wages, hours of work, and occupational safety and health; and
3) to establish formal procedures to screen projects and programs funded by the institution for any negative impact in a borrowing country of the rights referred to in paragraph (1).
(b) The Secretary of Treasury shall submit to the Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate by the end of each fiscal year a report on the extent to which each borrowing country guarantees internationally recognized worker rights to its labor force and on progress toward achieving each of the goals described in subsection (a).