Publication Date

Fall 1993


[Excerpt] Labor rights advocates in the United States and allied organizations abroad attempting to establish international fair labor standards run up against traditional notions of sovereignty in formulating national labor policies and development strategies. In the same way that entrenched sovereignty principles gradually yielded to international human rights claims after World War E, sovereignty is now being challenged by claims of international laborrights in the field of employment standards and industrial relations.

This Article seeks to illuminate this challenge to sovereignty in two case studies of labor rights advocacy. Part I sets the stage with an overview of the growing importance of labor rights and labor standards as the world economy shifts from a nation-based economy to a single, global economy. Part II examines the case studies: the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Guatemala. NAFTA is a case study of advocacy to establish fair international labor standards. The Guatemala case study exemplifies advocacy by U.S. labor rights supporters on behalf of workers and trade unions in Guatemala, where recourse is sought through worker rights provisions in U.S. trade laws and through a litigation strategy that views U.S. courts as a forum for asserting international labor rights claims.


Suggested Citation
Compa, L. (1993). International labor rights and the sovereignty question: NAFTA and Guatemala, two case studies. [Electronic version]. American University Journal of International Law and Policy, 9(1), 117-151.

Required Publisher Statement
Copyright held by the American University International Law Review. Reprinted with permission.