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Bureau of International Labor Affairs
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Freedom of Association & Collective Bargaining

Freedom of association is the right of workers and employers to organize to defend their interests, including for the purpose of negotiating salaries, benefits, and other conditions of work. It is a fundamental right that underpins democratic representation and governance.

Collective bargaining is an essential element of freedom of association. It helps to ensure that workers and employers have an equal voice in negotiations and provides workers the opportunity to seek to improve their living and working conditions.  Effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining can contribute to economic development and growth by increasing certainty and stability in the workplace and improving labor-management relations.  Read More

Our Strategy

We promote freedom of association and collective bargaining through:

  • participation in international organizations like the ILO;
  • enforcement of labor rights provisions in U.S. free trade agreements and trade preference programs, which includes publishing public reports on the enforcement of those rights; and
  • technical assistance projects aimed at improving government enforcement of labor laws or improving worker organizations' engagement with governments, employers, and society to protect worker rights. 

Additionally, ILAB is responsible for regularly reporting on the progress of the United States government in respecting and promoting freedom of association and collective bargaining domestically. ILAB compiles this information for reports, pursuant to the ILO 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, on the extent to which the U.S. government gives effect to the principles of collective bargaining and freedom of association.


Through our work, we hope to improve government enforcement of laws and policies that protect freedom of association and collective bargaining, and expand worker influence on government, employers, and society to protect worker rights. Specific objectives include:

  • governments revising or adopting laws, regulations, policies, and/or other instruments that strengthen freedom of association and collective bargaining;
  • labor inspectorates improving their performance in conducting labor inspections and enforcing national labor laws;
  • worker organizations expanding their collective bargaining, advocacy, and awareness-raising skills; and
  • improving others' understanding of worker rights, labor commitments in trade instruments, and the benefits from enforcing those commitments.

Further Resources