Common Workplace Problems in Different Legal Environments
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The history of collective workplace protest – the demand to be heard on wages or working conditions – transcends history and culture. There is evidence of strikes in Roman Egypt and even of collective agreements in the ancient world. See W.H. Buckler, Labor Disputes in the Province of Asia, in ANATOLIAN STUDIES PRESENTED TO SIR WILLIAM MITCHELL RAMSAY Ch. III (W.H. Buckler & W.M. Calder eds. 1923). Labor protests were a feature of textile manufacture in the Middle Ages, but not in textiles alone. See Samuel Cohn, Jr., LUST FOR LIBERTY: THE POLITICS OF SOCIAL REVOLT IN MEDIEVAL EUROPE, 1200–1425 (2006). In eighteenth century Japan, peasant social protest, including refusal to work, reflected economic as well as social tensions. E.g. Anne Walthall, SOCIAL PROTEST AND POPULAR CULTURE IN EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY JAPAN (1986). One is tempted to consider the desire for voice an aspect of the human condition. In modern times, the International Labor Organization’s conventions and numerous international declarations regard “freedom of association” as a human right. With the rise of wage labor as the predominant form in which work would be done in eighteenth century Europe and North America, the law moved through three phases to deal with workers’ demands for collective voice: repression, tolerance, and support. Today, the legal forms in which voice can be exercised vary: from forms of corporate governance, notably, employee representation on corporate boards; to collective bargaining; to co-determination by representative employee bodies “on the shop floor” or higher up in the enterprise’s structure; to forms of “information sharing and consultation”.

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