Advertisement

Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 123, Issue 3, pp 461–473 | Cite as

Private Regulation and Trade Union Rights: Why Codes of Conduct Have Limited Impact on Trade Union Rights

Article

Abstract

Codes of conduct are the main tools to privately regulate worker rights in global value chains. Scholars have shown that while codes may improve outcome standards (such as occupational health and safety), they have had limited impact on process rights (such as freedom of association and collective bargaining). Scholars have, though, only provided vague or general explanations for this empirical finding. We address this shortcoming by providing a holistic and detailed explanation, and argue that codes, in their current form, have limited impact on trade union rights due to (i) buyers paying lip service to trade union rights, (ii) workers being treated as passive objects of regulation in codes of conduct, (iii) auditing being unable to detect and remediate violations of trade union rights, (iv) codes emphasizing parallel means of organizing, (v) suppliers having limited incentives for compliance, and (vi) codes being unable to open up space for union organizing when leveraged in grassroots struggles. Our arguments suggest that there is no quick fix for codes’ limited impact on trade union rights, and that codes, in their current form, have limited potential to improve trade union rights. We conclude by discussing ways in which codes of conduct, and private regulation of worker rights more generally, could be transformed to more effectively address trade union rights.

Keywords

Codes of conduct Freedom of association Private regulation Supplier relationships Trade union rights Worker rights 

References

  1. Ählström, J., & Egels-Zandén, N. (2008). The processes of defining corporate responsibility: A study of Swedish garment retailers’ responsibility. Business Strategy and the Environment, 17(4), 230–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anner, M. (2000). Local and transnational campaigns to end sweatshop practices. In M. Gordon & L. Turner (Eds.), Transnational cooperation among trade unions (pp. 238–255). Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Anner, M. (2012). Corporate social responsibility and freedom of association rights: The precarious quest for legitimacy and control in global supply chains. Politics & Society, 40(4), 609–644.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Armbruster-Sandoval, R. (2003). Globalization and transnational labor organizing: The Honduran maquiladora industry and the Kimi campaign. Social Science History, 27, 551–576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Armbruster-Sandoval, R. (2005). Globalization and cross-border labor solidarity in the Americas: The anti-sweatshop movement and the struggle for social justice. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Ascoly, N., & Zeldenrust, I. (2003). Challenges in china: Experiences from two CCC pilot projects on monitoring and verification of code compliance. Amsterdam: SOMO, Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations.Google Scholar
  7. Auret, D., & Barrientos, S. (2004). Participatory social auditing: A practical guide to developing a gender-sensitive approach. IDS Working Paper 237, Brighton: Institute of Development Studies.Google Scholar
  8. Barrientos, S. (2013). Corporate purchasing practices in global production networks: A socially contested terrain. Geoforum, 44, 44–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Barrientos, S., & Smith, S. (2007). Do workers benefit from ethical trade? Assessing codes of labour practice in global production systems. Third World Quarterly, 28(4), 713–729.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bartley, T. (2007). Institutional emergence in an era of globalization: The rise of transnational private regulation of labor and environmental conditions. American Journal of Sociology, 113(2), 297–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bartley, T., & Zhang, L. (2012). Opening the “black box”: Transnational private certification of labor standards in China. RCCPB Working Paper #18, Indiana University.Google Scholar
  12. Behnam, M., & MacLean, T. L. (2011). Where is the accountability in international accountability standards? A decoupling perspective. Business Ethics Quarterly, 21(1), 45–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Beschorner, T., & Müller, M. (2007). Social standards: Toward an active ethical involvement of businesses in developing countries. Journal of Business Ethics, 73, 11–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Blowfield, M. E., & Dolan, C. (2010). Fairtrade facts and fancies: What Kenyan fairtrade tea tells us about business’ role as development agent. Journal of Business Ethics, 93, 143–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Braun, R., & Gearhart, J. (2004). Who should code your conduct? Trade union and NGO differences in the fight for workers’ rights. Development in Practice, 14(1–2), 183–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Brenner, A., Eidlin, B., & Candaele, K. (2006). Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Report for the Global Companies-Global Unions-Global Research-Global Campaigns Conference.Google Scholar
  17. Brown, D. (2000). International trade and core labour standards: A survey of the recent literature. OECD Labour Market and Social PolicyOccasional Papers, No. 43.Google Scholar
  18. Brown, G. (2013). Fatal flaws of foreign factory audits. Industrial Safety and Hygiene News, February. Retrieved June 30, 2013, from http://www.ishn.com/articles/print/95045-fatal-flaws-of-foreign-factory-audits.
  19. Brown, G., & O’Rourke, D. (2007). Lean manufacturing comes to China: A case study of its impact on workplace health and safety. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 3, 249–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Caraway, T. L. (2011). Final report: Labor courts in Indonesia. Phnom Penh: American Center for International Labor Solidarity.Google Scholar
  21. Chan, A., & Siu, K. (2010). Analyzing exploitation: The mechanisms underpinning low wages and excessive overtime in Chinese export factories. Critical Asian Studies, 42(2), 167–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Christmann, P. (2004). Multinational companies and the natural environment: Determinants of global environmental policy. Academy of Management Journal, 47(5), 747–760.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Compa, L. (2010). A strange case: Violations of workers’ freedom of association in the United States by European multinational corporations. New York, NY: Human Rights Watch. Retrieved June 30, 2013, from http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1334&context=articles.
  24. Connor, T., & Dent, K. (2006). Offside! Labour rights and sportswear production in Asia. London: Oxfam International.Google Scholar
  25. Egels-Zandén, N. (2007). Suppliers’ compliance with MNCs’ codes of conduct: Behind the scenes at Chinese toy suppliers. Journal of Business Ethics, 75(1), 45–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Egels-Zandén, N. (2013). Revisiting supplier compliance with MNC codes of conduct: Recoupling policy and practice at Chinese toy suppliers. Journal of Business Ethics. doi: 10.1007/s10551-013-1622-5.
  27. Egels-Zandén, N., & Bartley, T. (2012). How local activists use codes of conduct: A global value chain approach. Presented at the 2012 SASE Conference, Boston, MA.Google Scholar
  28. Egels-Zandén, N., & Hyllman, P. (2007). Evaluating strategies for negotiating workers’ rights in transnational corporations: The effects of codes of conduct and global agreements on workplace democracy. Journal of Business Ethics, 76(2), 207–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Egels-Zandén, N., & Wahlqvist, E. (2007). Post-partnership strategies for defining corporate responsibility: The business social compliance initiative. Journal of Business Ethics, 70(2), 175–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Everett, J. S., Neu, D., & Martinez, D. (2008). Multi-stakeholder labour monitoring organizations: Egoists, instrumentalists, or moralists? Journal of Business Ethics, 81, 117–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. FLA. (2004). Public Report. Retrieved February 2, 2013, from http://www.fairlabor.org/2004report/freedom/improve.html.
  32. Fransen, L. (2012). Multi-stakeholder governance and voluntary programme interactions: Legitimation politics in the institutional design of corporate social responsibility. Socio-Economic Review, 10, 163–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. French, J. L., & Wokutch, R. E. (2005). Child workers, globalization and international business ethics: A case study in Brazil’s export-oriented shoe industry. Business Ethics Quarterly, 15(4), 615–640.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Frenkel, S. (2001). Globalization, athletic footwear commodity chains and employment relations in China. Organization Studies, 22(4), 531–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Greenwood, M. R. (2002). Ethics and HRM: A review and conceptual analysis. Journal of Business Ethics, 36, 261–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hallett, T. (2010). The myth incarnate: Recoupling processes, turmoil, and inhabited institutions in an urban elementary school. American Sociological Review, 75(1), 52–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hunter, P., & Urminsky, M. (2003). Social auditing, freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Geneva: Multinational Enterprises Programme, ILO. Retrieved February 2, 2013, from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/dialogue/actrav/publ/130/8.pdf.
  38. ILO. (2004). Organizing for social justice: Global report under the follow-up to the ILO declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work. International Labour Conference, 92nd Session, 2004, Report 1 (b). Geneva: ILO.Google Scholar
  39. ILO. (2006). Freedom of association: Digest of decisions and principles of the freedom of association committee of the governing body of the ILO Fifth (revised) edition. Geneva: ILO.Google Scholar
  40. ILO. (2008). The labour principles of the United Nations Global Compact: A guide for business. Geneva: ILO.Google Scholar
  41. ILO. (2011). Freedom of association and development. Geneva: ILO.Google Scholar
  42. ITUC, IndustriALL, Clean Clothes Campaign, & UNI. (2012). The UN guiding principles on business and human rights and the human rights of workers to form or join trade unions and to bargain collectively. Retrieved June 30, 2013, from http://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/12-11-22_ituc-industriall-ccc-uni_paper_on_due_diligence_and_foa.pdf.
  43. Ip, P.-K. (2008). Corporate social responsibility and crony capitalism in Taiwan. Journal of Business Ethics, 79, 167–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Jiang, B. (2009). Implementing supplier codes of conduct in global supply chains: Process explanations from theoretic and empirical perspectives. Journal of Business Ethics, 85, 77–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Khan, F. R., Munir, K. A., & Willmott, H. (2007). A dark Side of institutional entrepreneurship: Soccer balls, child labour and postcolonial impoverishment. Organization Studies, 28(7), 1055–1077.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Kucera, D., & Sarna, R. (2006). Trade union rights, democracy, and exports: A gravity model approach. Review of International Economics, 14(5), 859–882.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Locke, R., Kochan, T., Romis, M., & Qin, F. (2007). Beyond corporate codes of conduct: Work organization and labour standards at Nike’s suppliers. International Labour Review, 146(1–2), 21–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Long, B. S., & Driscoll, C. (2007). Codes of ethics and the pursuit of organizational legitimacy: Theoretical and empirical contributions. Journal of Business Ethics, 77, 173–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Mamic, I. (2004). Implementing codes of conduct: How businesses manage social performance in global supply chains. Sheffield: Greenleaf Publishing.Google Scholar
  50. Merk, J. (2008). Restructuring and conflict in the global athletic footwear industry: Nike, Yue Yuen and labour codes of conduct. In M. Taylor (Ed.), Global economy contested: Power and conflict across the international division of labour (pp. 79–97). New York, NY: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Merk, J. (2011). Production beyond the horizon of consumption: Spatial fixes and anti-sweatshop struggles in the global athletic footwear industry. Global Society, 25(1), 73–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Meyer, J. W., & Rowan, B. (1977). Institutionalized organization: Formal structure as myth and ceremony. American Journal of Sociology, 83, 340–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Miller, D. (2008). The ITGLWF’s policy on cross-border dialogue in the textiles, clothing and footwear sector: Emerging strategies in a sector ruled by codes of conduct and resistant companies. In K. Papadakis (Ed.), Cross-border social dialogue and agreements: An emerging global industrial relations framework? (pp. 161–189). Geneva: ILO.Google Scholar
  54. Ngai, P. (2003). The moral economy of capital: Transnational corporate codes of conduct and labour rights in China. Presented at the Chinese University Conference: Chinese Trade Unions and the Labour Movement in the Market Economy, October 23–25.Google Scholar
  55. Ngai, P. (2005). Global production, company codes of conduct, and labor conditions in China: A case study of two factories. The China Journal, 54, 101–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. O’Rourke, D. (2002). Monitoring the monitors: A critique of third-party labor monitoring. In R. Jenkins, R. Pearson, & G. Seyfang (Eds.), Corporate responsibility and labour rights: Codes of conduct in the global economy (pp. 196–208). London: Earthscan.Google Scholar
  57. O’Rourke, D., & Brown, G. (2003). Experiments in transforming the global workplace: Incentives for and impediments to improving workplace conditions in China. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental and Health, 9(4), 378–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Oka, C. (2011). What can bridge compliance gaps? Evidence from Cambodia. Presented at the 2nd Conference on Regulating for Decent Work: Regulating for a Fair Recovery, 6–8 July. Geneva: ILO.Google Scholar
  59. Play Fair. (2008). Clearing the hurdles: Steps to improving wages and working conditions in the global sportswear industry. Retrieved June 30, 2013, from http://www.playfair2008.org/docs/Clearing_the_Hurdles.pdf.
  60. Preuss, L. (2009). Ethical sourcing codes of large UK-based corporations: Prevalence, content, limitations. Journal of Business Ethics, 88, 735–747.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Preuss, L. (2010). Codes of conduct in organisational context: From cascade to lattice-work of codes. Journal of Business Ethics, 94, 471–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Prieto-Carron, M. (2006). Corporate social responsibility in Latin America: Chiquita, women banana workers and structural inequalities. Journal of Corporate Citizenship, 21, 85–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Prieto-Carrón, M. (2008). Women workers, industrialization, global supply chains and corporate codes of conduct. Journal of Business Ethics, 83, 5–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Reay, T., & Hinings, C. R. (2009). Managing the rivalry of competing institutional logics. Organization Studies, 30(6), 629–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Rees, C., & Vermijs, D. (2008). Mapping grievance mechanisms in the business and human rights area. Corporate social responsibility initiative. John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, January, 2008. Retrieved June 30, 2013, from http://shiftproject.org/sites/default/files/Report_28_Mapping.pdf.
  66. Riisgaard, L. (2009). Global value chains, labor organization and private social standards: Lessons from East African cut flower industries. World Development, 37(2), 326–340.Google Scholar
  67. Riisgaard, L., & Hammer, N. (2011). Prospects for labour in global value chains: Labour standards in the cut flower and banana industries. British Journal of Industrial Relations, 49(1), 168–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Rodríguez-Garavito, C. A. (2005). Global governance and labor rights: Codes of conduct and anti-sweatshop struggles in global apparel factories in Mexico and Guatemala. Politics and Society, 33(2), 203–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Ross, R. J. S. (2006). A tale of two factories: Successful resistance to sweatshops and the limits of firefighting. Labor Studies Journal, 30(4), 65–85.Google Scholar
  70. Runhaard, H., & Lafferty, H. (2009). Governing corporate social responsibility: An assessment of the contribution of the UN Global Compact to CSR strategies in the telecommunications industry. Journal of Business Ethics, 84, 479–495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Sauder, M., & Espeland, W. N. (2009). The discipline of rankings: Tight coupling and organizational change. American Sociological Review, 74, 63–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Scott, W. R. (2008). Institutions and organizations: Ideas and interests. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  73. Seidman, G. (2007). Beyond the boycott: Labor rights, human rights and transnational activism. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation/ASA Rose Series.Google Scholar
  74. Spillane, J. P., Parise, L. M., & Sherer, J. Z. (2011). Organizational routines as coupling mechanisms: Policy, school administration, and the technical core. American Educational Research Journal, 48(3), 586–620.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Sum, N.-L., & Ngai, P. (2005). Globalization and paradoxes of ethical transnational production: Code of conduct in a Chinese workplace. Competition and Change, 9(2), 181–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Taylor, M. (2011). Race you to the bottom … and back again? The uneven development of labour codes of conduct. New Political Economy, 16(4), 445–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Tjandraningsih, I., & Nugroho, H. (2008). The flexibility regime and organised labour in Indonesia. Labour and Management in Development, 9, 1–14.Google Scholar
  78. Van Buren, H. J., & Greenwood, M. R. (2008). Enhancing employee voice: Are voluntary employer–employee partnerships enough? Journal of Business Ethics, 81, 209–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. van der Vegt, S. (2005). Social auditing in Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey: Results from survey and case study research. Ankara: ILO.Google Scholar
  80. van Tulder, R., & Kolk, A. (2001). Multinationality and corporate ethics: Codes of conduct in the sporting goods industry. Journal of International Business Studies, 32(2), 267–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Waddock, S. (2004). Creating corporate accountability: Foundational principles to make corporate citizenship real. Journal of Business Ethics, 50, 313–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Wang, H. (2005). Asian transnational corporations and labor rights: Vietnamese trade unions in Taiwan-invested companies. Journal of Business Ethics, 56, 43–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Wells, D. (2007). Too weak for the job: Corporate codes of conduct, non-governmental organizations and the regulation of international labour standards. Global Social Policy, 7(1), 51–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Wereldsolidariteit. (2011). Short-term employment in the Asian garment industry. Thematic Report from Asia, No. 1. Brussels.Google Scholar
  85. Wingborg, M. (2006). Indiska: En granskning av företagets strategier för att förbättra villkoren i leverantörsfabrikerna. Stockholm: Clean Clothes Campaign Sweden.Google Scholar
  86. Yu, X. (2008). Impacts of corporate codes of conduct on labor standards: A case study of Reebok’s athletic footwear supplier factory in China. Journal of Business Ethics, 81, 513–529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Yu, X. (2009). From passive beneficiary to active stakeholder: Workers’ participation in CSR movement against labor abuses. Journal of Business Ethics, 87, 233–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Zadek, S. (2004). The path to corporate social responsibility. Harvard Business Review, 82(12), 125–132.Google Scholar
  89. Zeldenrust, I. (2008). Overcoming challenges: Access, effectiveness and enforcement. Retrieved June 30, 2013, from http://srsg-consultation.pbworks.com/w/page/6116278/Overcoming%20Challenges%3A%20Access,%20Effectiveness%20and%20Enforcement.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Business Administration, School of Business Economics and LawUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden
  2. 2.International Secretariat Clean Clothes CampaignAmsterdamThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations