Today retail-dominated supply chains, of which those commanded by executives at Walmart, Apple, Nike, Zara, and H&M are the most prominent, generate at least half of all world trade and “employ” hundreds o f millions o f workers in thousands of contract manufacturers from Shenzhen and Shanghai to Sao Paulo and San Pedro Sula. Given their enormous power to squeeze prices and wages, these North Atlantic brands and retailers today occupy the commanding heights of world capitalism.
The essays collected in Achieving Workers’ Rights in the Global Economy offer an incisive analysis of this pernicious system alongside proposals for its radical reform. Its contributors, many of whom have years of experience studying or working with major companies, nongovernmental organizations, international regulatory bodies, and trade unions on more than four continents, explain why so many high-profile corporate social responsibility programs have failed, why real wages have declined in much of the garment-manufacturing sector, and why unions and other forms of worker self-organization have had such difficulty establishing themselves in China, South Asia, and Central America. The concluding chapters call for cross-border regulation, worker self-empowerment, and brand and retailer legal responsibility for the wages, working conditions, and safety of all those who labor in their contract factories.