Competing Transnationalisms: Form and Purpose in Global Labour Politics

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:15
Location: Hörsaal 48 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Dimitris STEVIS, Colorado State University, USA
Ever since the mid of the 19th century there have been vigorous debates as to whether various transnational interactions amongst unions were meaningful or superficial exchanges amongst national entities with different and often competing priorities. While this research question remains pertinent it is now time to investigate the forms and social purpose of increasingly strong transnational relations amongst unions and employee organizations. While such ties are still few their possible impacts on the future of global industrial relations and labor politics is likely to be profound. Global frameworks agreements, global employee organizations, strong relations amongst national unions, stronger global union federations and global union and workers networks are examples of this small but growing universe of transnational relations that are beyond ad hoc interactions and episodic engagement.

The primary goal of this contribution is to explore the interfaces between the forms and the social purpose of transnational labor relations. With respect to form I will argue that transnational relations can take a variety of forms depending on membership and the organizational ties amongst the participants. In short that there is no nomothetic correlation between forms of transnationalism and its strength. With respect to purpose I will focus on both the instrumental goals of transnational relations and their deeper structural and ideological foundations. Out of this discussion I derive an analytical scheme which I use to understand the dynamics of global union politics. On that basis I will highlight the need to examine competing labor transnationalisms as evidence of increasing contestation over global industrial relations, similar to the contestations that have taken place in national contexts over time.