This paper examines the Australian trade union movement's campaign to convince the Australian Labor Party (ALP) to support the inclusion of core labour standards in international trade agreements. Despite historical affiliations, the Australian union movement has been unsuccessful in its attempts to influence the ALP. In contrast, the US union movement has convinced both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party to accept that core labour standards should be a part of the trade negotiating agenda. The reasons for the US unions' success on this issue are examined within the context of the changing relationship between the respective union movements and their traditional parliamentary allies. The need for Australian unions to examine and reassess their strategies by drawing lessons from the US experience, including the possibility of a changed relationship with the ALP, is discussed.