1. The signing cerimony of the Declaration of Philadelphia at the White House, in 1944

  2. ILO Director-General David A. Morse received the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1969, on behalf of the ILO

  3. Speech by President Bill Clinton at the 87th Session of the ILC, in 1999

Brief history and timeline

The United States partnership with the ILO began with its founding in 1919 when the ILO was created along with the League of Nations from the Treaty of Versailles. In October 1919, the first International Labor Conference (ILC) took place in Washington, D.C. and a year later, an ILO branch office was established in that city, making it one of the first four cities to have an ILO office (along with Paris, London, and Rome). In 1934, the US joined the ILO, the only League of Nations organization with which it was to be affiliated.

In 1944, the International Labor Conference held in Philadelphia broadened the ILO’s mandate. The delegates adopted the Declaration of Philadelphia, annexed to the Constitution, which constitutes the Charter of the aims and objectives of the modern ILO. In 1946, the ILO became a specialized agency of the newly formed United Nations.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter established the President’s Committee on the ILO (PC/ILO). The President's Committee is a tripartite federal advisory committee that directs US participation in the ILO. It is chaired by the US Secretary of Labor and includes the Secretaries of State and Commerce, the Assistants to the President for National Security Affairs and Economic Policy, the Presidents of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and the United States Council for International Business (USCIB).

Timeline: ILO - US Milestones


The ILO Constitution is written between January and April by the Commission on International Labor, constituted by the Treaty of Versailles, and adopted at the Paris Peace Conference. The Commission is composed of nine countries: Belgium, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, France, Italy, Japan, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States. The first International Labor Conference (ILC) is held in Washington, D.C. and the first six International Labor Conventions are adopted.


ILO Headquarters is established in Geneva.


The United States, which did not belong to the League of Nations, joins the ILO.


John G. Winant, an American who was the first head of the American Social Security System, and then the Deputy Director of the ILO, becomes the Director-General.


Delegates to the ILC adopt the Declaration of Philadelphia, redefining the ILO aims, goals and agenda for human rights and social justice in the post-World War II global economy, later to be incorporated into the ILO Constitution.


In December 1946, the ILO becomes the first UN specialized agency. The agreement was signed by the UN Secretary General Trygve Lie and the ILO Director-General, Edward Phelan.


David A. Morse, who played an important role in the administration of President Harry Truman, is Director-General of the ILO.


The ILO is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as it commemorates its 50th anniversary.


The US withdraws from the Organization and returns three years later.


The US Department of Labor and the ILO sign a US $2.1 million agreement for projects to combat child labor spanning the period August 1, 1995 until July 31, 1999.


The ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work is adopted by the ILC.


President Bill Clinton addresses the ILC, the first time a US president speaks to the ILC in Geneva. The Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention, 1999 (No. 182) is adopted.


Convention No. 182 comes into force. The Child Labor Conference takes place May 17-18. The ILO/AIDS program is formally established in November.


The World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization is established by ILO. The Commission's final report is released in 2004.


ILO adopts landmark Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization.


ILO marks its 90th anniversary. The Global Jobs Pact is adopted in June.


Meeting of the US President’s Committee on the ILO calls upon the Tripartite Advisory Panel on International Labor Standards (TAPILS) to resume its work of reviewing the legal feasibility of ratification of selected ILO conventions.


US-Brazil Memorandum of Understanding to promote Decent Work through South-South and Trilateral Cooperation is signed.