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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Informal Worker Organizing as a Strategy for Improving Subcontracted Work in the Textile and Apparel Industries of Brazil, South Africa, India and China

  • Author(s): Tilly, Chris;
  • Agarwala, Rina;
  • Mosoetsa, Sarah;
  • Ngai, Pun;
  • Salas, Carlos;
  • Sheikh, Hina
  • et al.

Recent tragedies in Bangladesh and Pakistan have led to greater public attention on the garment and textile industry. Hence, this study is timely and provides insights into the current working conditions, organizing efforts, and the changing organization and structure of the industry in question. Our central question in this study is the extent to which worker organization can improve monitoring and enforcement of labor standards in subcontracted and home-based work in the garment and textile sectors in Brazil, China, India, and South Africa. Existing research literature suggests that in at least some cases of informalized and casualized work, formation and mobilization of worker organizations can do much in this regard. The research has particularly pointed to the importance of innovative and alternative forms of organization that depart from standard trade union models—in line with the departure of whole sections of the world of work from standard forms of work organization. While suggestive, this literature has been dominated by cases of a single organization in a single country, or in some cases convenience samples of organizations from one or a range of countries.

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