Every worker should enjoy decent and safe working conditions. This requires, at a minimum, the regulation of working time, the appropriate payment of wages, and effective oversight of occupational safety and health (OSH). In order to qualify for certain trade benefits through the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences program, countries must be taking steps to afford acceptable conditions of work with respect to minimum wages, hours of work, and OSH. In addition, labor standards in a number of U.S. free trade agreements include commitments related to acceptable conditions of work.
The State Department defines "acceptable conditions of work" as:
the establishment and maintenance of mechanisms, adapted to national conditions, that provide for minimum working standards, that is: wages that provide a decent living for workers and their families; working hours that do not exceed 48 hours per week, with a full 24-hour day of rest; a specified number of annual paid leave days; and minimum conditions for the protection of the safety and health of workers.
The International Labor Organization has adopted several Conventions and Recommendations designed to ensure that hours of work are regulated, that workers receive adequate rest periods and annual holidays, and that workers are protected from workplaces injuries and illnesses.
The principal legislation in the United States that governs workplace conditions is the Fair Labor Standards Act, which is enforced by the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.