Law and the Global Sweatshop Problem
Forthcoming in Richard Appelbaum & Nelson Lichtenstein, eds, Making Blue the Next Green (Cornell U.P. 2015)
Posted: 11 Aug 2015 Last revised: 9 Oct 2015
Date Written: August 8, 2015
The global sweatshop problem is in part a creature of law. National and international legal regimes encourage sweatshop production in two ways: by weaving investors and brands’ interests into the basic structure of economic globalization, and by limiting workers’ powers of concerted action both within and across national borders. As a result, solving the global sweatshop problem will likely require legal reforms — in particular, reforms to promote and instantiate a new form of collective bargaining that I call “transnational triangular collective bargaining” or “TTCB.” In TTCB, workers’ organizations would link together across national borders and negotiate binding agreements both with workers’ immediate employers and with the multinational brands that purchase their products. Crucially, TTCB would often benefit brands as well as workers by reducing brands’ reputational risk, stabilizing their sourcing relationships, and enabling high-performance production strategies. In other words, TTCB could be the foundation of a new, more stable, and more fair global production system.
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