Can International Framework Agreements Facilitate Transnational Labor Cooperation?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 11:15 AM
Room: Booth 41
Oral Presentation
Cesar ROSADO MARZAN , Law, IIT-Chicago-Kent College of Law, Chicago, IL
Cesar ROSADO , Law, IIT-Chicago-Kent College of Law, Chicago, IL
Marx & Engels predicted that globalization would lead workers of the world to unite. Indeed, the world economy is today “global.” However, globalization seems to have hurt workers’ organization as labor unions have lost membership and influence almost across the board.  But in the past decade global unions have even been able to persuade more than 100 multinational corporations employing over 8 million workers to sign so-called international framework agreements (“IFAs”). At a minimum, all IFAs must submit to the “core labor rights” of the International Labor Organization (“ILO”), to wit, the right of freedom of association and effective collective bargaining, the right to be free from discrimination at work, the right against compulsory labor and the right against the worst forms of child labor. Could Marx & Engels have been correct, after all, about an international formation of workers acting in a class-conscious way for fundamental social change around the world? After doing empirical field research for about 6 months in Europe and the U.S.A., I do not think that IFAs yet signal a significant and new labor upsurge. First, I found out that the mostly German, Nordic, and French labor organizations seem to determine the specific meanings of the IFAs. These specific national labor organizations broker the IFAs and the relations that give IFAs meaning and life. In this sense IFAs are not truly "global." They have important national roots.  Second, unions across economic sectors seem to have conflicting interests. No brokerage seems to mend those ruptures, leading some global unions and their IFAs to clash with others. The paper concludes by arguing that the ILO may help to broker these conflicts to propel IFAs forward.