Aligning Rights and Incentives
Chapter 1: Introduction
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.