Teaching Resources


International Labor Rights

Resources for teaching international labor rights include International Labor Organization materials, United Nations human rights conventions, and cases from regional human rights bodies like the Inter-American Court of Human Rights .


ILO documents

All members of the ILO have an obligation to “respect, to promote, and to realize” these fundamental rights—even if they have not ratified the Conventions. The significance and importance of the Declaration is seen in the extensive diffusion and incorporation into numerous public and private instruments, including the UN Global Compact, UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, and global framework agreements, among others.

  • ILO, Freedom of Association:  Compilation of Decisions of the Committee on Freedom of Association, (6th ed., 2018).

UN documents

  • Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework, Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises,” UN doc. A/HRC/17/31 (21 March 2011), available at http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/GuidingPrinciplesBusinessHR_EN.pdf.
  • Protect, Respect and Remedy: A Framework for Business and Human Rights, UN doc. A/HRC/8/5 (7 April 2008).

This report provides rich material for understanding the most pressing labor issues in the world today and the broader implications of workers’ rights in the global community.  It is a great reading assignment to use to facilitate student discussions. The report not only covers the international legal framework, but gives special attention to those considered particularly vulnerable including migrant workers, women and domestic workers.

  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights, G.A. Res.217A (III), U.N. GAOR, 3rd Sess, pt. 1, at 71, U.N. Doc.  A/810 (1948)(art. 20(1); art. 23(4).
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Dec. 16, 1966, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Article 22.
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Dec. 16, 1966, 999 993 U.N.T.S 3, Article 8.

OECD documents


  • Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Ricardo Baena et al., v. Panama, Merits, Reparations and Costs, Judgment of February 2, 2001, Series C No. 72.
  • Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Huilca-Tecse v. Peru, Merits, Reparations and Costs, Judgment of March 3, 2005, Series C No. 121.
  • Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Cantoral-Huamani and Garcia Santa Cruz v. Peru, Preliminary Objection, Merits, Reparations and Costs, Judgment of July 10, 2007, Series C No. 167.
  • Inter-American Court of Human Rights, The Standing of Legal Entities in the Inter-American Human Rights System, Advisory Opinion OC-22, 26 February 2016 (PDF – Español).
  • Demir and Baykara v. Turkey, App. No. 34503/97, 48 Eur. H.R. Rep 54 (2008).


  • James A. Gross, ed., Workers’ Rights as Human Rights (2003). 
  • John Gerald Ruggie, Just Business: Multinational Corporations and Human Rights (2013).

This is a compact volume that concisely frames the basic labor issues.  Particularly helpful for those with no background in labor law.

  • James Atleson, et al., International Labor Law (2008).

This casebook is comprehensive and covers an expansive list of useful topics in the field of labor law.  Great background material for covering international labor law.

  • Adelle Blackett and Anne Trebilock, Research Handbook on Transnational Labour Law (2015).

This is a very useful volume covering 38 different timely transnational labor law topics briefly. The contents are better suited to graduate students with some background in the material.

  • Angela B. Cornell, “Inter-American Court Recognizes the Elevated Status of Trade Unions, Rejects Standing of Corporations,” International Labor Rights Case Law, vol. 3, no. 1 (2017) (PDF – Español).

This is a very short article on an Inter-American Court Advisory Opinion that distinguishes the rights of labor from corporations in the Inter-American human rights system. It can help to spur dialogue with students.



  • Small Group Exercise on U.N. Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai’s 2016 Report.  Assign the 2016 report with the following questions:  1) What is the broader significance of labor rights in the world today?  2) What do you think are the most pressing labor issues and why? How can corporations and governments enhance the rights of vulnerable workers?  Divide the class into groups of 5-6 students, and ask them to discuss one of the 3 questions for 20 minutes.  Groups may need to work outside of the classroom.  When the group returns, one member of each group should be designated to share the highlights of the exchange.
  • Small Group Exercise on Undocumented Workers.  This exercise may be helpful after the instructor has reviewed the language referencing labor rights in international human rights instruments. Students can be divided into small groups and asked whether legal status makes a difference under international labor standards.  Does a worker’s undocumented status deprive the worker of protection under international law? How have international human rights instruments and bodies addressed the rights of undocumented workers? Do undocumented workers have the same fundamental labor rights?  If so, are they entitled to remedies if those rights are violated? Student should have 30 minutes to work together on these questions, referencing ILO and Inter-American Court jurisprudence. They will need access to their laptops for this exercise. Comments from each group can be discussed when the groups come together.


This bibliography may be cited as:

Angela B. Cornell, “Teaching Resources:  International Labor Rights,” in Teaching Business and Human Rights Handbook (Teaching Business and Human Rights Forum, 2019), https://teachbhr.org/resources/teaching-bhr-handbook/teaching-notes/international-labor-rights/teaching-resources/.