Unions Without Borders: Recent Developments in the Theory, Practice and Law of Transnational Unionism
Canadian Labour and Employment Law Journal, Forthcoming
63 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2009 Last revised: 17 Apr 2009
Date Written: January 6, 2009
Unions facing global capital, or representing migrant workers, or both, should adopt a strategy of: (1) insisting, to the extent possible, on representation of workers by national labour movements covering the location where work is performed; (2) linking those national labour movements in enduring transnational union organizations that coordinate reciprocity; and (3) vigourously seeking alliances with worker support organizations outside the union movement. These conclusions follow a review of recent experiences, which confirm a game-theoretic account in which transnational institutions arise to solve coordination problems among national institutions. (1) The insistence on the local responds to union defeats in European Union law, in which Swedish unions, insisting that Latvian workers building a school in Sweden be paid Swedish wages, were held to have interfered with the free movement of capital. North American unions representing migrant farm workers must avoid the analogous claim that such workers were hired in Mexico or Jamaica, then posted to Canada or the U.S. (2) While existing formal transnational union organizations and framework agreements have achieved little, they offer the promise of future reciprocity. By contrast, ad hoc campaigns seeking union support have achieved less, while engendering cultural misunderstanding harmful to future support. (3) Although systematic comparison is not possible, many anecdotes suggest that alternative worker support organizations in the developed world, are more effective allies for unions in the developing world, than are developed-world unions.
Keywords: labor law, human rights, global economy
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