Will the rise of the global economy be the death of unions and collective bargaining? How can unions safeguard employee wages, benefits and workplace conditions when companies can hire workers in countries where they have no bargaining power or legal protection? Can unions deal with globalization by using their traditional approaches to representing workers, or must they try something new to survive?
In his new book, “The Unions’ Response to Globalization” (Springer, 2014), Clark University professor of industrial relations Gary Chaison states that “unions have to think and act globally. If unions are to be relevant to our economy and society, they must find the will and the way to broaden their voice beyond the workplace to protect workers globally.” Union leaders and activists must not only ask how they can change globalization, but how globalization changes what unions do.
“The Unions’ Response to Globalization” explores how unions can survive the economic globalization that links national economies, reduces barriers to the free flow of goods and services, and increases access to cheap labor. Written for the general reader as well as the labor relations specialist, Chaison’s book begins by describing the impact of globalization on unions and workers using the American automobile industry as a vivid example; he then shows how unions have tried to confront globalization using traditional approaches such as organizing new members, bargaining with employers, and engaging in politics. Finally he demonstrates how unions can adopt new approaches to protect themselves and their members from globalization, including forming or joining coalitions among unions and other like-minded organizations, and negotiating International Framework Agreements.
Chaison maintains that International Framework Agreements hold the key to future union survival and work protection in the global marketplace. By threatening adverse publicity, often leading to boycotts, unions can pressure companies into signing International Framework Agreements which impose fundamental workers’ rights on both companies and suppliers to those companies. Chaison shows how unions will not have to forsake their traditional roles as organizers, bargainers and political actors when they join or form coalitions, or when they act through global union federations to negotiate framework agreements with employers. The old and the new can co-exist.
Gary Chaison is on the faculty of the Graduate School of Management at Clark University. Nationally recognized as an expert in the field of labor relations, he is consulted regularly by media outlets. “The Unions’ Response to Globalization” will be available at Amazon.com. Chaison’s previous books include “The New Collective Bargaining” (Springer, June 2012); “Unions in America” (Sage Publications, 2006); “Unions and Legitimacy” (Cornell University Press/ILR Press, 2002), with B. Bigelow; “Union Mergers in Hard Times: The View from Five Countries” (Cornell University Press/ILR Press, 1996); and “When Unions Merge” (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1986).