26. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1
- U.S. Contribution to the ILO Budget
Charles Yost was called in by Secretary General U Thant and General Assembly President Hambro on October 7 to express their deep alarm that the U.S. Congress has cut in half the assessed U.S. contribution to the budget of the International Labor Organization (ILO). They stated that our refusal “on political grounds” to pay our assessed contribution to an international organization puts us in the same position as the Russians and the French. They said that adoption by the U.S. of this position threatened the entire UN financial structure and the viability of the UN itself. They asked Yost to transmit on their behalf to you the strongest possible plea that some means be found as soon as possible for the U.S. to meet its full obligation to the ILO. The full text of the telegram from Yost is at Tab A.2
In recent years, George Meany has become increasingly disenchanted with the International Labor Organization. His disenchantment has to do with the compromise of the ILO’s tripartite nature (government–business–labor) in the interest of facilitating Soviet participation. Over the years, these attempts at accommodation have resulted, in fact, in some rather peculiar things. The straw that broke [Page 44]the camel’s back was the publication in the ILO magazine of a blatantly propagandistic piece about Soviet “trade unions”, and the appointment of a Russian as an Assistant Director General of the ILO.
His cup running over, Meany had a great deal to say to Congressman Rooney’s Subcommittee at the appropriation hearings for the ILO budget. Rooney fully shares Meany’s distaste, and the result is the Congressional refusal to appropriate the second half of the annual U.S. contribution to the ILO.
We are therefore in the position of refusing to pay one half of our assessed contribution to a UN body.
Our unhappiness with the course of developments in the ILO does not receive much international sympathy. John Rooney’s technique for whipping the ILO back into line is, of course, seen elsewhere as simple blackmail. UN-minded Americans are aghast at what we propose to do. George Meany, however, is quite happy with it, as is the Department of Labor. State is concerned, but not as much as one might expect in the circumstances.
I am convinced that nothing can be done without Meany’s cooperation. I am told by the Department of Labor that Meany wants the bill to pass for its “shock treatment” value on the ILO. At some later time, Meany might be willing to ask his Congressional friends to ease up with a supplemental.
The theoretical possibility exists, of course, that a proper approach from the White House to Meany, promising vigorous action to rectify ILO’s sins, might induce him to ask the Congress to vote the subscription. However, I do not think it will work, at the present time. Moreover, to some extent I think we will benefit from the Congressional action, so long as we appear to be its victims. Finally, I do not think the season is right for stirring up George Meany.
Therefore, in the absence of a strong recommendation from the Secretary of State that the international costs of letting this situation develop are too great to be borne, I do not propose that we take any action. I did, however, think you should know of this situation, which will doubtless get worse before it gets better.