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National Labor Movements and Transnational Connections: Global Labor’s Evolving Architecture Under Neoliberalism

Abstract

The neoliberal era has undermined worker’s rights and labor’s power at the national level, but has also been characterized as an era of ‘the new labor transnationalism’. Shifting fortunes at the national level have been fundamental to expanding openness to transnational alliances. An analysis of campaigns connecting U.S. labor to the Honduran CGT, the Bridgestone-Firestone workers in Liberia, the Gerdau Workers World Council, and other national unions in both North and South show how adversity at the national level has pushed U.S. labor toward transnational alliances. Conversely, the growing global role of major countries in the South has expanded their potential contribution to transnational alliances, as illustrated by Brazilian labor’s involvement with both European unions like the Dutch FNV and U.S. unions like the UAW and the USW. New connections among national labor movements are complemented by the expansion of Global Union Federations and new governance instruments like Global Framework Agreements, which articulate multi-country connections. Assessing the connections among national labor movements and the new global organizational infrastructure that have emerged under neoliberalism is a necessary foundation for building better theories of labor’s evolving contestation with global capital.

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