Table of Contents

Research Handbook on Transnational Labour Law

Research Handbook on Transnational Labour Law

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Adelle Blackett and Anne Trebilcock

The editors’ substantive introduction and the specially commissioned chapters in the Handbook explore the emergence of transnational labour law as a field, along with its contested contours. The expansion of traditional legal methods, such as treaties, is juxtaposed with the proliferation of contemporary alternatives such as indicators, framework agreements and consumer-led initiatives. Key international and regional institutions are studied for their coverage of such classic topics as freedom of association, equality, and sectoral labour standard-setting, as well as for the space they provide for dialogue. The volume underscores transnational labour law’s capacity to build bridges, including on migration, climate change and development.

Chapter 18: Working together transnationally

Cynthia Estlund

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, labour, employment law, public international law


Globalization poses daunting challenges to workers’ conventional forms of self-organization, some stemming from the mismatch between national governmental and industrial relations institutions and the increasingly transnational organization and mobility of capital, production, services, and labour. One major challenge posed by globalization, and the focus here, is growing transnational diversity within workplaces and within the workforces of transnational enterprises. Even familiar forms of workplace diversity along lines of national origin, race, culture, and religion can be a source of friction, and can complicate the project of building solidarity and institutions of collective voice. Yet the experience of working together across lines of social division – cooperating, commiserating, and socializing over weeks, months, or years – can help to bridge social divisions, foster connectedness, and facilitate self-organization and solidarity among diverse groups of workers. Globalization further complicates the project of self-organization by adding differences of national citizenship and sometimes language, and by adding distance to the challenge of diversity: Co-workers in transnational enterprises are spread across many countries, and must communicate virtually and remotely rather than face-to-face. In the long run, interaction among workers from different countries may help to lay a foundation for new forms of transnational organizing and worker voice (although the long run might be too long given other mounting challenges to self-organization). In the meantime, whatever their instrumental payoff for workers’ organizations, transnational connectedness and solidarity are worth cultivating for their own sake.

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