Channels for Workers' Voice in the Transnational Governance of Labour Rights?

This article examines the neglected question of workers’ voice in the transnational governance of labour rights. While governance studies often neglect worker's agency and labour studies focus on strikes or collective bargaining, this article takes the theoretical lenses of recursivity to explore and compare new channels for worker participation that developed in the context of transnational governance schemes. Taking the example of the Fair Labor Association, a prominent multistakeholder initiative in the garment industry, the article distinguishes between three channels: workers’ surveys during audits, complaint procedures, and local grievance mediation. Despite the fact that such opportunities count as key innovations for the participation of labour in transnational governance, statistical and qualitative data from FLA's factory audits and self-conducted interviews show that locally situated actors, especially workers, are only occasionally able to make their voice heard in formally open channels. The article identifies two main sources of constraints: the first is workers’ lack of knowledge of these channels and distrust towards these procedures. This is tied, secondly, to the more fundamental problem that business continues to have interpretative power over the nature of the problems and solutions in transnational labour governance.



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