Flexibilization, Globalization, and Privatization: Three Challenges to Labor Rights in Our Time
Katherine V.W. Stone
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law
Osgoode Hall Law Journal, Fall 2005
UCLA School of Law Research Paper No. 05-19
Three dynamics are coalescing to reshape labor relations in the 21st century in the United States: They are flexibilization, globalization and privatization. "Flexibilization" refers to the changing work practices by which firms no longer use internal labor markets or implicitly promise employees lifetime job security, but rather seek flexible employment relations that permit them to increase or diminish their workforce, and reassign and redeploy employees with ease. "Globalization" refers to the increase in cross-border transactions in the production and marketing of goods and services that facilitates firm relocation to low labor cost countries. And "privatization" refers to the rise of neo-liberal ideology, the attack on big government and the dismantling of the social safety net that have dominated public policy in the U.S. in recent years. All three of these dynamics have been detrimental to U.S. employment standards and union strength.
This article describes how each of these dynamics has undermined labor rights and then asks, what prospects are there, in light of this environment, for protecting employment rights, re-invigorating unions, and security a social safety net? The author answers by pointing to the many areas of social life in which the spread of the global leads to the re-emergence of the local. She argues that the response to the global threat to labor standards lies in a revival of collective action at the local level. She further contends that the combined forces of flexibilization, globalization, and privatizations make collective action at the local level not only necessary, but also possible.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 34
Keywords: Employment rights and standards, employment relations
JEL Classification: J11, J21
Date posted: August 11, 2005