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Jumping scale and bridging space in the era of corporate social responsibility: cross-border labour struggles in the global garment industry

Merk, Jeroen (2009) Jumping scale and bridging space in the era of corporate social responsibility: cross-border labour struggles in the global garment industry. Third World Quarterly, 30 (3 (S)). pp. 599-615. ISSN 0143-6597

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Identification Number: 10.1080/01436590902742354


Global outsourcing arrangements in the garment industry, and elsewhere, provide one type of company—brands or retailers—with the possibility of distancing themselves from the organisational questions related to (mass) labour processes. By externalising the labour-intensive aspects of production, global sourcing companies no longer have to take responsibility for the majority of workers involved in the process. This has given these companies an opportunity to break out of unionised and established industrial areas with strict institutionalised labour processes, and has undermined traditional strategies that labour has used to protect itself against exploitation, turning the global supply chain into a barrier to organising and collective bargaining. Spatial strategies are by no means exclusive to firms. Workers too can pursue their causes on a broader socio-geographic terrain, a process often referred to as ‘jumping scale’ or ‘bridging space’. Drawing upon concepts derived from social and labour geography, this paper is a critical inquiry into the nature, possibility and limits to cross-border solidarity campaigns in the global garment industry. The paper starts by emphasising that workers remain active participants in a process of contestation that constantly reshapes the dynamics of workplace control and its accompanying power balances and relations. Then we discuss how the increased attention being paid to working conditions by activists, consumers, journalists and branded corporations adds an extra-local dimension to workplace relations, (potentially) restricting management from exercising more despotic forms of labour relations. The final part discusses how the Clean Clothes Campaign's urgent appeal system provides a grassroots-based system to build labour solidarity across space, which may help to regain leverage over capital.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2009 Third World Quarterly
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Date Deposited: 07 May 2014 12:46
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2021 02:44

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