Labor Standards in International Supply Chains

Labor Standards in International Supply Chains

Aligning Rights and Incentives

Daniel Berliner, Anne Regan Greenleaf, Milli Lake, Margaret Levi and Jennifer Noveck

Labor Standards in International Supply Chains examines developments in working conditions over the past thirty years. The authors analyze the stakeholders and mechanisms that create challenges and opportunities for improving labor rights around the world, in sectors including apparel, footwear and electronics. Extended examples from China, Honduras, Bangladesh and the United States, as well as new quantitative evidence, illustrate the complex dynamics within and among key groups, including brands, suppliers, governments, workers and consumers.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Daniel Berliner, Anne Regan Greenleaf, Milli Lake, Margaret Levi and Jennifer Noveck

Subjects: politics and public policy, human rights, international politics, social policy and sociology, labour policy

Abstract

Under what conditions should we expect labor rights in global supply chains to improve? This book asks what has been and what can be done. Although we find that any change is difficult both to achieve and sustain, some progress is possible. Change comes, we argue, when the interests of key actors are aligned to improve labor standards. The achievement of alignment is not a given but requires political and economic processes, and often the explicit use of economic and political power, to compel stakeholders to form commonalties of interest. Our aim is to specify the conditions that align the interests of employers, governments, and consumers with those of the workers. We do this with a particular focus on apparel, footwear, and consumer electronics brands, whose history we trace generally and through case studies of four countries that illustrate a variety of strategies and processes: the United States, Honduras, Bangladesh, and China. We find that the contemporary form of the global supply chain is the source of problematic working conditions we identify and that improved labor standards require transformation in the motivations and practices of owners and managers of supply chain businesses and the governments that house them.