Howard Wachtel

Howard Wachtel is acting dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at American University, a fellow at the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam, and the author of The Money Mandarins: The Making of a New Supranational Economic Order.

Recent Articles

Labor's Stake in the WTO

Before the WTO was founded in 1995, labor supporters lobbied hard against it. But now, the WTO may be the last, best hope for arresting global erosion of labor rights.

W hen seven years of trade negotiations at last gave birth to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995, the U.S. labor movement was one of its leading skeptics. A world trade organization, labor supporters argued, would only accelerate the headlong rush to laissez-faire by dismantling national regulations. It would overwhelm attempts by nations to defend living standards and the ability of unions to fight for wages and health and safety laws—and it would make it harder for nations to defend the rights of workers to join unions. Labor lobbied hard against the WTO. But now, ironically, the WTO could become a critical venue for advancing workers' rights worldwide. For the WTO has the power to review nations' domestic laws that create unfair trade advantages—including, potentially, labor laws. The WTO could define fair trade to include labor standards. Such linkage would be a historic change in the world's trading regime, and labor's stake in it. The idea of linking labor rights with...