Making Globalism Work for Employees
Jeffrey M. Hirsch
University of North Carolina School of Law
July 22, 2009
Saint Louis University Law Journal, Vol. 54, p. 427, 2010
University of Tennessee Legal Studies Research Paper No. 66
The rise of globalism has allowed businesses to expand their chains of production across the world and forced them to compete internationally. This expansion of competition has also extended to the labor market, as workers must now often compete with other workers from around the globe. This increased competition has put severe downward pressure on wages and compensation, while at the same time making it far more difficult for workers to press for improvements in the workplace. The result is a growing need for employee collective action, combined with a decreased effectiveness of such measures.
This Article examines the main strategies for employee collective action, including coordination among foreign employee groups, pressure on employers to adopt codes of conduct or other voluntary labor standards agreements, new types of employee groups that focus on the needs of workers in the global economy, and government action that promotes labor standards and rights in the global economy. None of these strategies has produced substantial gains for workers thus far, and it is quite possible that this disappointment will continue for the foreseeable future. The effectiveness of these strategies will likely improve as employee groups become more adept at finding the combination of the techniques that provides the most benefit in a given situation; however, the competitive pressures of globalism will always remain as a significant impediment. This Article therefore argues that the only real hope for genuine improvements in the workplace - particularly for low-wage employees - is government action. Whether through domestic legal protection for employee collection action or pressure on other countries in support of labor standards, government action remains the best, albeit far from assured, hope for workers in the global economy.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 43
Keywords: labor, employment, work, union, globalism, treaties
JEL Classification: J38, J40, J50, J51, J54, J58, J60, J61
Date posted: July 23, 2009 ; Last revised: August 17, 2010