A Case Study Approach
Edited by Christine A. Mallin
Chapter 10: Does the Adoption of Codes of Conduct Marginalize Labor Unions? The Case of Turkey’s Garment Industry
10. Does the adoption of codes of conduct marginalize labor unions? The case of Turkey’s garment industry Melsa Ararat and Mahmut Bayazıt It is much easier . . . to be benevolent than it is to share power. (Bowen, cited in Selekman, 1958) INTRODUCTION Since the early 1990s, outsourcing labor-intensive production to low-cost countries has become a strategy widely used by transnational retail and branded goods companies in response to competitive pressures, while competition between suppliers has created a downward pressure on already inferior working conditions in those countries. The protection of workers’ rights has meanwhile suffered a setback worldwide with the diminishing power of unions. As a result, the ‘labor problem’ and the issue of social standards at the workplace have taken center stage in the corporate social responsibility (CSR) discourse (see O’Rourke, 2003; Sethi, 2003). Two strategies have been developed in response to public concerns, one being international systems of regulation such as the International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions. The second strategy involves the selfregulation of firms across their supply chains through ‘voluntary’ codes of conduct (CoC). These CoC are proposed as instruments of CSR. In this chapter we try to answer the following question: does the adoption of CoC cause the marginalization of the role that unions play in a developing country context? We define marginalization in terms of both decreasing perceived utility of unions as well as scope and depth of issues that they can influence.1 In the first section we provide a background of the roles of...
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