Global Unions

Global Unions: Challenging Transnational Capital through Cross-Border Campaigns

EDITED BY KATE BRONFENBRENNER
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press,
Pages: 280
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7591/j.ctt7z9cm
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Global Unions
    Book Description:

    To meet the challenges of globalization, unions must improve their understanding of the changing nature of corporate ownership structures and practices, and they must develop alliances and strategies appropriate to the new environment. Global Unions includes original research from scholars around the world on the range of innovative strategies that unions use to adapt to different circumstances, industries, countries, and corporations in taking on the challenge of mounting cross-border campaigns against global firms.

    This collection emerges from a landmark conference where unionists, academics, and representatives of nongovernmental organizations from the Global South and the Global North met to devise strategies for labor to use when confronting the most powerful corporations such as Wal-Mart and Exxon Mobil. The workplaces discussed here include agriculture (bananas), maritime labor (dock workers), manufacturing (apparel, automobiles, medical supplies), food processing, and services (school bus drivers).

    Kate Bronfenbrenner's introduction sets the stage, followed by contributions describing specific examples from Asia, Latin America, and Europe. Bronfenbrenner's conclusion focuses on the key lessons for strengthening union power in relation to global capital.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6154-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-15)
    KATE BRONFENBRENNER

    On February 9, 2006, more than 560 representatives from unions, union federations, academia, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from around the world gathered at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in New York City for the “Global Companies–Global Unions–Global Research–Global Campaigns” conference. The overall goal of the conference was to strengthen labor’s capacity to conduct more effective strategic corporate research and run more effective comprehensive cross-border campaigns against the world’s largest transnational firms. Yet perhaps the theme of the conference was best summed up by AFL-CIO secretary treasurer Richard Trumka in his remarks in the opening plenary:

    Brothers and Sisters,...

  5. 1. BEATING GLOBAL CAPITAL: A Framework and Method for Union Strategic Corporate Research and Campaigns
    (pp. 16-39)
    TOM JURAVICH

    As unions in the United States struggle to survive in the face of the globalization of firms combined with unprecedented employer opposition to unions, it is clear that new approaches, strategies, and tactics are imperative. The ways of organizing and bargaining forged during the labor-management accord in the 1950s and 1960s—approaches that relied heavily on the law and administrative proceduralism—simply have no place in this new reality, given the withdrawal of corporations from the accord and growing employer intransigence, as workers in the United States now find themselves on a world stage. If labor in the United States...

  6. 2. “DUE DILIGENCE” AT APM-MAERSK: From Malaysian Industrial Dispute to Danish Cross-Border Campaign
    (pp. 40-56)
    PETER WAD

    Denmark could be described as a society of small business and big unions because of its industrial structure, dominated by small and medium-sized firms, and industrial relations characterized by a very high level of union density, nationwide and craft-based unions, a hybrid of comprehensive centralized and decentralized collective bargaining, and neocorporate-based trade union influence. However, Denmark has homegrown transnational companies, the largest of which is A.P.Moller-Maersk Group (henceforth APM-Maersk) with a labor force of more than seventy thousand employees working in more than 125 countries (Maersk 2005). APM-Maersk is among the largest Nordic corporations and one of the two hundred...

  7. 3. INDIAN LABOR LEGISLATION AND CROSS-BORDER SOLIDARITY IN HISTORICAL CONTEXT
    (pp. 57-77)
    ASHWINI SUKTHANKAR and KEVIN KOLBEN

    It has been suggested that “the history of labour legislation in India¹ is naturally interwoven with the history of British colonialism” (Mathew 2003). If that is true of the history of laws regulating workers in India, it is equally true of the history of laws and policies that not only regulate how Indian workers are able to engage with the world and how the world’s workers are able to engage with India but also shape their willingness to do so. This chapter analyzes the historical and legal context and potential of cross-border organizing and international solidarity in India, with an...

  8. 4. STRUGGLE, PERSEVERANCE, AND ORGANIZATION IN SRI LANKA’S EXPORT PROCESSING ZONES
    (pp. 78-98)
    SAMANTHI GUNAWARDANA

    The aim of this chapter is to examine the forms of organizing that have been possible in Sri Lankan export processing zones (EPZs),¹ where young women drawn from the rural poor make up approximately 85 percent of all workers (BOI 2003b). This analysis is framed by a close reading of the local context of struggle pertaining to social relations in which workers, labor movements, and labor-management practices are constructed and embedded (Polanyi 1957, 43–55; Munck 2004, 258), with a view to understanding the importance of, and possibilities for, global trade union campaigns.

    EPZs are crucial areas of study, as...

  9. 5. ORGANIZING IN THE BANANA SECTOR
    (pp. 99-116)
    HENRY FRUNDT

    Bananas do not rank highly among labor’s strategic organizing targets in the global economy. Nevertheless, in developing nations, banana workers have achieved notable organizing success, gaining a unionization rate of 30 percent or more between 1960 and 1985. This rate declined in the 1990s as banana organizing faced major obstacles. However, in the new millennium local unions are struggling to overcome these barriers with U.S., European, and Canadian support. Their battle offers instructive lessons for cross-border efforts in other sectors. Key aspects of this effort include differential strategies for organizing transnational banana firms, such as Chiquita, Dole, and Del Monte;...

  10. 6. DOCKERS VERSUS THE DIRECTIVES: Battling Port Policy on the European Waterfront
    (pp. 117-136)
    PETER TURNBULL

    Global companies now dominate the maritime industry. By the turn of the millennium, the six leading shipping alliances accounted for around 60 percent of world container traffic, and the five largest container terminal operators handled well over a third of all container boxes to pass through the world’s ports. More important, these companies no longer confine their activities to port-to-port movements or within-port handling but now provide door-to-door services from the manufacturer to the distributor or final customer. With operations in all the different transport modes, these transnational transport and logistics companies not only benefit from globalization and the ever-expanding...

  11. 7. GOING NATIONAL OR EUROPEAN? Local Trade Union Politics within Transnational Business Contexts in Europe
    (pp. 137-154)
    VALERIA PULIGNANO

    Following from Levinson’s (1972) argument about the need for labor to develop a countervailing power to global capital, the research literature has drawn attention to the dynamics in trade unions that leads them both to cooperation with capital to secure jobs and employment through business success on one hand, and to confrontation with capital over the distribution of the rewards on the other hand. In particular, it has been argued that this is a complex, dynamic, and changing relationship shaped and constrained by a context in which the labor movement itself is a significant actor. But what sort of actor...

  12. 8. LABOR-COMMUNITY COALITIONS, GLOBAL UNION ALLIANCES, AND THE POTENTIAL OF SEIU’S GLOBAL PARTNERSHIPS
    (pp. 155-173)
    AMANDA TATTERSALL

    The idea that the workers of the world should unite is deeply rooted in union rhetoric, yet the means by which global union alliances can be effectively sustained is less apparent. This chapter uses lessons from labor-community coalition practices to help explore the elements of effective long-term global union alliances. In doing so, it suggests there are generalizable lessons about coalitions, whether between unions or between unions and community organizations, that can inform our understanding of union collaboration. It considers the possibilities for creating powerful global union alliances in the service sector through a case study of the Service Employees...

  13. 9. INTERNATIONAL FRAMEWORK AGREEMENTS: Opportunities and Challenges for Global Unionism
    (pp. 174-194)
    DIMITRIS STEVIS and TERRY BOSWELL

    In 1966 the United Auto Workers (UAW) spearheaded the creation of World Company Councils (WCC) in order to promote union collaboration with respect to particular companies. By 1974 there were more than thirty of them, but none had been able to engage a transnational firm in substantive dialogue, let alone any form of bargaining. Fourteen years later the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF), one of the international trade secretariats (pre-2002 name for global union federations [GUFs]) that had pursued the WCC strategy, signed the first in a series of agreements with...

  14. 10. BEYOND WORKERS’ RIGHTS: Transnational Corporations, Human Rights Abuse, and Violent Conflict in the Global South
    (pp. 195-212)
    DARRYN SNELL

    The dramatic increase in foreign direct investment and the activities of transnational corporations in developing countries in the Global South have contributed to mounting concerns, locally and internationally, about the detrimental effects they are having on the societies and environments in which they operate (UNHCR 2005). The behavior of these immensely powerful and wealthy entities in nations in the Global South has not always been virtuous, nor has it always brought the sort of social and economic stability that many countries had hoped. Recent international media attention on a number of high-profile court cases implicating the likes of Exxon Mobil,...

  15. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 213-226)
    KATE BRONFENBRENNER

    The goal of this book was to provide a body of original scholarly research that captured global union efforts to take on and win against the world’s largest transnational firms. More specifically, the book aimed to focus on comprehensive cross-border organizing and bargaining campaigns that took place, for the most part, outside the United States. Many might think it would have been a difficult goal to achieve, since the generally held presumption is that cross-border campaigns are primarily a U.S. invention. Yet, as the Global Unions Conference in February 2006 clearly demonstrated, union cross-border strategies can be found wherever there...

  16. REFERENCES
    (pp. 227-248)
  17. List of Contributors
    (pp. 249-252)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 253-262)