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How FDR Did Things

December 30, 2015

The International Labor Organization (ILO) was founded in 1919 and predated the League of Nations. When the League was formed in 1920, the ILO became one of its agencies. Since the United States never joined the League, it did not join the ILO at that time. However, ILO member nations were not necessarily members of the League.

When Franklin Roosevelt became President in 1933, he appointed Frances Perkins as Secretary of Labor. She approached him regarding U.S. membership in the ILO, and FDR responded positively to the idea. Secretary Perkins then asked: “Mr. President, have I your permission to go ahead and prepare the way for the United States to join the ILO?”

FDR considered the question for a minute, and then replied: “Yes, certainly, but remember a few things. Don’t try to do this without the full assent and understanding of the members of Congress primarily responsible for foreign policy.”

The United States joined the ILO the next year. Writing about the late President in 1946, Perkins said: “As early as 1934 it was clear that Roosevelt had thought out the necessity of involving the opposition, as well as his own party, in any ideas for participation in international affairs. The success with the ILO was to bear fruit in a broader sphere.”

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