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Place, Space and Labour Internationalism

Special Issue of Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography

Peter Waterman and jane Wills (eds.)

Prospectus (September 1999)
`The Future is Not What it Used To Be' (grafito on a wall in Buenos Aires).

How true this is for labour internationalism! Organised labour has been profoundly disoriented by the new world disorder of globalisation, neo-liberalism and informatisation. 

The familiar markers of industry, employment, class, community, ethnicity, gender, nation, state, culture, ideology, party and strategy are in movement, or have been removed. And it would seem that the old trade union and socialist internationalisms, based on strong national organisations of labour, no longer meet the challenges posed.

Yet, whilst some radical left social theoreticians think that labour as an emancipatory movement is as dead as the dodo, stirrings and upheavals, here, there and everywhere, suggest that, whilst it has been profoundly disoriented, labour is now getting up from its knees, defending itself, asserting itself, even attacking and, above all, seeking to reinvent the internationalism that it itself once invented.

This resurgence of labour internationalism takes many shapes, sizes and forms but its practices echo the agenda of those that emerged on the fringes, or at the base, of organised international unionism in the late 1960s and 1970s. These international labour pioneers established local, national and international labour resource centres and publications to provide services for workers at community and enterprise level, and for national movements peripheralised by the state-and-bloc internationals of the period following World War II. Inspired by the spirit of 1968, these centres were open to feminist, ecological and human-rights activism, as well as being anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist. 

Today, many of the major organs of international labour are beginning to use the ideas, language and strategies pioneered by these labour solidarity activists over the past 30 years.

This regeneration of labour internationalism has attracted the attention of a new generation of committed thinkers deploying new types of scholarship. Labour internationalism is looked at not only in terms of political economy or industrial and international relations, but also in terms of social movement theory and in relationship to global civil society projects. Feminists in the field consider (and further) internationalism for and between the growing number of women workers - and working women. Notions of labour-community alliances, or the alliance of labour with the new radical-democratic social movements, are being projected onto the world stage. A notable and novel contribution is that of radical social geographers, focusing on labour in place and space. Labour is also being examined as it expresses itself in cyberspace, making a contribution to a global culture of solidarity and sustainability. 

This special issue of Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography may well be the first academic journal devoted to this subject. It will consist of a number of articles and an introductory review essay which outlines current developments and debates. 

The issue will be published in late 2000 or early 2001 and the first deadline for submissions is March 31, 2000. We welcome all contributions, but especially those from younger scholars and activists, and those covering areas and arguments that are customarily marginalised in academic publications. Depending on the quality of the special issue and the interest it generates, we will consider later republication in edited book form.

Please contact the editors for further information, and we ask that all potential contributors contact the editors to discuss their proposals before they begin. Please pass on this proposal to all those with an interest in labour internationalisms today.

Peter Waterman (
Jane Wills (
Possible Contributors, Contributions, Abstracts, Etc. (January 2000)

1. Author and address
Compa, Lance
Professor of Labour Law
Cornell University
7717 Garland Ave
Takoma Park
MD 20912
 Tel: +1-301-270-0161
2. Subject or title
The North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation and International Labor Solidarity
3. Abstract or description
 (Extract from draft)
A five-year review of experience under the NAALC is just a first chapter in what will surely be a lengthy saga recounting the promotion of workers' rights in connection with expanded trade. The story will not be one of straight-line advances, either. The forces arrayed against workers' interests are powerful and do not easily yield to trade union demands for greater voice in trade and investment matters. Looming negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) raise the stakes for a labor rights-trade linkage. In the FTAA context, the experience and the views of labor movements in Mercosur countries (Brazil most significantly) and other hemispheric bodies will be important. The NAALC by itself will not be the only example of workers and their allies grappling with the effects of global trade and investment on their unions and their wages and working conditions. But is an example that provides valuable experience and insights into fashioning a strong social charter to advance workers' rights in the 21st century.
1. Author and address
Dave, Alana 
International Federation of Workers' Education Associations
GMB College
2. Subject or title
Workers' Education And Labour Internationalism: International Study Circles
3. Abstract or description
1. Author and address
Grenier, Guillermo and Bruce Nissen
Florida International University
2. Subject or title
Unions and Mass Immigration
3. Abstract or description
Part of the internationalist consciousness of union leaders and members concerns how they relate to foreign born workers within their own borders.  To the degree that immigrants are viewed as anything other than welcome members of the union’s membership, nationalism will be playing a part preventing unions from operating in a manner needed in today’s world.  One of the most neglected issues in the discussion of ‘globalization’ is that of immigration.  To a very large degree, the recent mass immigration to the United States from poorer countries of the world is an integral part of the internationalization of economies, both in the United States and in other countries.  The world-wide neo-liberal agenda has uprooted traditional economies and removed many protected industries and jobs from lesser developed countries. Mass impoverishment and the moving of economic opportunities across borders has driven millions of people to migrate, either legally or illegally, to advanced industrial countries like the United States. While the U.S. labor movement has been fixated on trade policy and the loss of domestic jobs, it must also pay attention to the other side of the same coin: mass immigration, especially from underdeveloped areas of the world. Our paper will focus on the alternative responses to mass immigration that U.S. unions have pursued.  Case studies of south Florida unions will be developed.  South Florida is a good choice for examination because it has experienced intense immigration and therefore illustrates the types of changes and pressures  that will be facing other areas of the U.S. in coming decades. Reasons for differing reactions of unions will be sought within the structural and attitudinal factors of each union.  Factors such as union structure (craft vs. industrial), degree of change in composition of the workforce in the particular industry, presence of a substantial number of the immigrant ‘ethnic stock’ already in the pre-existing workforce, presence or absence of any union leadership of first or second generation immigrants, and the ‘subjective factor’ of the ideological attitudes of local and national union leadership will be examined. Present union practices will be evaluated in terms of success in integrating new immigrant members into their ranks.   The most successful seem to be led by politically progressive leaders who consciously strive to include and elevate the immigrant membership to leadership positions.  Environments where the workforce ‘mix’ is either heavily immigrant or else has a longer history of the immigrant ‘ethnic stock’ within its membership make progressive attitudes more likely, as does an industrial union structure.  We conclude with recommendations for ‘best practice’ of union leadership from a progressive left perspective.
1. Author and address
Herod, Andrew
Department of Georgraphy
Georgia University
2. Subject or title
 Organizing Globally, Organizing Locally: 
Geographic Scale and Union Spatial Strategy
3. Abstract or description
Globalization has unleashed a powerful set of economic, social, political, and cultural forces and processes with which unions must deal. To date, much writing on how unions must adapt to the new realities of the global economy has suggested that they will have to operate transnationally if they are to be successful in the next century. Thus, international labor solidarity has been argued by many to be the essential strategy for unions to pursue. It is by matching the global organization of their employers, so this argument goes, that unions will be most successful. However, a number of recent campaigns (such as the 1998 GM-UAW strike in North America) suggest that local organization can also be highly effective in combatting a transnationally organized corporation, particularly if such local disputes target crucial parts of that corporation’s organization. Thus, for example, in the case of the GM-UAW dispute the strike of some 3,000 workers at one metal stamping plant in Flint, Michigan effectively brought GM’s North American production to a halt, led to the laying off of over 200,000 workers, and had impacts on plants as far away as Singapore. Unions, then, may be faced with a choice -shaped for sure by the contingencies of their particular situation- between confronting economic globalization through international actions aimed to link different workers in different locales across the planet together, or by engaging in well-articulated, very local campaigns against particular key "control points" in a corporation’s structure. In this paper I argue that each of these strategies incorporates within it different conceptions of geographic space. The first assumes that global economic space has essentially been "flattened out" with transnational corporations capable of locating virtually anywhere. Differences between places are assumed to have become so minimal that a corporation has freedom to choose to locate in any one of a myriad of possible locations, each much the same as any other. In such a conception, unions must operate globally so as to conquor global space and match the global geographic reach of their employers. Such a strategy represents a "global-down" strategy. The second assumes that even in a hyper-mobile global economy, particular places are still important for corporations because of their skill mix, their location in certain national or regional markets, and the like. The need for corporations to engage in such "strategic localization" (ie to locate operations in particular places) means that unions may effectively disrupt the operations of a corporation through activities focused on only a small number of strategically located operations. In such cases, disruption of operations at one or two key facilities will have ripple effects that drag into a dispute other plants. Such a strategy may be said to represent a "local-up" strategy. In drawing this distinction I do not mean to prioritize either strategy as being somehow naturally more useful for workers. Rather, my goal is to suggest two things. First, which ever of these spatial strategies is most successful will depend upon the contingent relations within which workers find themselves in different places. Second, by understanding how what I call the "politics of geographic scale" (ie which strategy is likely to be most successful, a global campaign or a local one) play out, it is possible to see how places in different parts of the world may be linked together through labor union campaigns against particular corporations, whether these are globally-oriented or locally-oriented campaigns. 
1. Author and address
Hyman, Richard
Warwick University
Coventry CV4 7AL
Tel: +44-203-523-840
2. Subject or title
European Industrial Relations: From Regulation to Deregulation to Re-Regulation?
The End of An Old Regime and the Struggle for a New Order
3. Abstract or description
How far is ‘Europe’ an arena in which trade unions can effectively coordinate their actions to respond to the dynamics of a capitalism which has increasingly escaped the constraints of national regulation? How far are ‘the cultural values of human experience’ a resource which unions can adopt, and adapt, to win a popular legitimacy which in most countries they have manifestly lost? And how far can this provide a basis for a different style of European engagement, one which might allow the European trade union movement to re-invent itself as an effective protagonist of a genuine ‘people’s Europe’?
1. Author and address
Jakobsen, Kjeld Aagard
Secretary of International Relations
Central única de Trabalhadores
Rua Caetano Pinto 575
CEP 03041-000
Sao Paulo
 Tel: +55-11-242-9411
 Fax: +55-1-242-9610
2. Subject or title
New Challenges in the Inter-American Regional Workers Confederation (ORIT)
3. Abstract or description
(extract from a review article by Peter Waterman)
The Inter-American Regional Organisation of Workers, universally known by its Spanish initials as the ORIT, was, during the Cold War, a byword for US corruption, covert operations, the splitting and domination of Third World unions. The AFL-CIO used it at will, conjointly or alternatively to the ICFTU itself and its very own, but state-funded and CIA-linked, American Institute for Free Labour Development. Perhaps it is a combination of the hyper-irrelevance of the ORIT, the savage effects of neo-liberalism on labour in the sub-continent, and the failure of the Eurocentric ICFTU to respond with speed and relevance to globalisation, that has led to the ORIT playing something of a vanguard role with respect to both the continent and the ICFTU. It would have been nice if this new internationalism had reached the ORIT from the shopfloor. But given the past dependence on nation states, national parties and nationalist ideologies, any mass internationalism amongst Latin American workers has been the exception. The ORIT has been not only democratising itself internally and reaching out to unions regardless of political or international affiliation. It has also been playing an active role in various cross-sector, cross-border civil society alliances attempting to confront the wave of inter-state free-trade initiatives in the Americas. This, inevitably, means entering non-union networks, alliances and coalitions - to the silent chagrin, here, of the ICFTU in Brussels. So the ORIT has been impacted from the grassroots, if not the shopfloor. Or - if one prefers to concentrate on the institutionalised expression of such - we could consider this as the horizontal impact of the NGOs in the Americas. A major question facing both the ORIT and the AFL-CIO (and the Canadian unions for that matter) must therefore be the development of a healthy, open and democratic dialectic with civil society more generally.
1. Author and address
Johns, Rebecca 
University of South Florida
2. Subject or title
Seeing the Forest for the Trees: Linking Labor and Environment Across Borders through the International Federation of Building and Wood Workers
3. Abstract or description
I have a paper underway which examines the work of the International Federation of Building and Wood Workers  to promote sustainable forestry around the world. I am particularly interested in the efforts of the federation to bring together labor and environmental concerns through some really interesting and innovative programs. I am particularly interested in the way the federation links workers regionally and across national boundaries to build the influence it needs to get  the job done. That cross-border regionalization/globalization is the source of their success in promoting sustainable forestry as well as protecting workers. I am also interested in exploring what the IFBWW programs tell us about our concepts of justice....for so long I have focused on the process of decision-making, and privileged notions of procedural over distributive justice....but it seems that the outcomes are just as important (more so?) than the process (I know there is literature about ‘substantive justice’ which I intend to explore), and in this case, both outcomes and process are really interesting. My original interest in this stuff was in contrasting the situation of forest workers in Europe to that of forest workers in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S., and noting how in Europe the cross-border organization and the linking of environment and labor are both so strong that the workers have clearly benefitted....whereas in the U.S. this is decidely not the case.
1. Author and address
Lambert, Rob
Regional Coordinator
Southern Initiative on Globalisation and Trade Union Rights
University of Western Australia
Western Australia
2. Subject or title
The Movement's New Unity: Reflections on a Conference of the Network of the Southern Initiative on Globalisation and Trade Union Rights
3. Abstract or description
(Extract from article draft)
The radical nature of global restructuring and the high mobility of capital requires a global unionism… Moves are now in place to forge sector to sector links across specific countries to trial run global unionism. Linkages through personnel exchanges will transmit national experiences thereby creating a readiness to act in the cause of geographically distant workers for these distant workers will now be represented inside the collaborating union, working to raise the awareness levels […] When Australian [dockworkers] leaders visited the Durban docks in South Africa to personally thank workers for their boycott actions, there was a high demand for T-shirts and other symbols. These one-off meetings are valuable. Shared experience creates a real sense of international solidarity… However, these positive acts do not create a global unionism. For this to happen, structural links with a degree of permanence have to be formed. Certain unions are already in process to review the form of this change […] Unions that are presently leading global campaigns against multinationals have found it essential to turn outwards and form community alliances. The multinational mining giant that is attacking worker rights in Australia in the name of individual freedom is the same company that is cutting into Malagasy’s ancient forests to sand mine. The interests of green groups and unions coalesce […] The conference will explore the mechanics of these strategic shifts. The outcome will be the first building blocks of a global social movement unionism not as an abstract theoretical idea, but as a concrete organisational shift worked through in all its detail.
1. Author and address
Carla Lipsig-Mumme
Director, Centre for Research on Work and Society
York University
Toronto, Canada
2. Subject or title
The Language of Organising: Trade Union Strategy in
International Perspective
3. Abstract or description
Over the past decade, trade unions in Australia, the U.K., the U.S. and to a lesser extent Canada, have turned to organising new members as a principal strategy to redress decline in union density and influence. The 'organising renaissance' has developed its own international language which reveals the divergent uses of organising, both among national labour movements and within them. In addition, the international adoption and adaptation of the US 'Organising Model' raises questions of international knowledge transfer and power relations between labour movements. Three tensions define the organising renaissance: the tension between transformative and instrumental organising; the tension between recruitment of new members by trade unions, and representation of workers by community organisations and workers' centres; and the tension between internal strategies of organisational renewal and external strategies of international action. This paper explores four aspects of the language of organising: context, keywords, linkages between organising and community unionism, and the relation between organising and international union action, drawing on US, Australian, Canadian and British research.
1. Author and address
Luján, Bertha
Frente Autentico del Trabajo
Godard No. 20
Col. Guadalupe Victoria
C.P. 07790
Mexico, DF
Tel: +556-9314
Fax: +556-936
2. Subject or title
Globalisation and Labour Standards: The Case of the NAFTA
3. Abstract or description
 (Extract from draft)
The process of globalisation has been studied…almost exclusively, as an inevitable and unalterable phenomenon of economic modernisation… But this process of globalisation also bears with it aspects which are positive for workers and peoples… We would like to emphasise three aspects, which are products of globalisation and favourable to the peoples: a)…the increasing interrelationship between social, citizen and political organisations… b) the reorganisation of labour movements of the whole world in terms of their internal and external structures and alliances… c) the shaping of a new agenda of struggle on behalf of workers and peoples, expressed in different demands concerning the inclusion of social agendas and clauses in international accords on trade and investment…
1. Author and address
Waterman, Peter
Jacob v.d. Doesstr 28
2518XN The Hague
Tel/Fax: +31-70-363-1539
2. Subject or title
Some Propositions on the Old Internationalism, the New Global Solidarity, a Future Global Civil Society
3. Abstract or description
1. Internationalism in history: it neither began nor does it end with labour and capital; 2. Whatever happened to proletarian internationalism? 3. Whatever happened to socialist internationalism? 4. `Globalisation' is more than capitalism's latest ideology or highest stage; 5. A complex globalisation provokes complex internationalisms; 6. Responses to the Big G can be multiple, overlapping and interlocked; 7. A complex capitalism needs (sorry!) a complex solidarity; 8. Will South Africa move from a substitution to a rainbow internationalism?; 9. 'Poor Mexico: so far from God, so close to the USA'? 10. Liverpool, UK: some defeats are worth more than victories…; 11. Relating to other people is not what we do but who we are; 12. The `future is not what it used to be' (grafito, Buenos Aires) but… 'A map of the world than does not include Utopia is not even worth glancing at' (Oscar Wilde); 13. Global civil society: an unimaginable, or simply an unimagined, community? 14. International democracy as process: civilising global society; 15. Women and internationalism: from a room of one's own to the world as one's country…and back again; 16. On the Battle of Seattle: The whole world IS watching; 17. Democratising labour's international affairs: civilising global society begins at home.
1. Author and address
Wills, Jane
Queen Mary and Westfield College 
University of London
2. Subject or title
Transnational Labour Organisation in Europe: 
Learning the Lessons from European Works Councils
3. Abstract or description
1. Author and address
Wright, Melissa
University of Georgia
2. Subject or title
Organising in the Maquiladora, Mexico
3. Abstract or description
Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, is now infamous as a city rife with drug violence, the serial murders of women, and the maquiladora factories. Over the last five years, the murder rate in the city has skyrocketed to turn the city into Mexico’s murder capital. While the maquiladora industry resists the notion that any connections can be made between their industrial activity and the crime-rate, many non-profit organizations are attempting to make such connections. In this essay, I shall explore how one such group, El Ocho de Marzo, has deployed the concept of community in order to force the multinational corporate sector to address some of the social ills now plaguing the border region. This group, organized by middle class women in Ciudad Juarez, worked with international human rights groups as well as with domestic and foreign journalists to create an international community that would raise the issue of community accountability for the maquiladora industry. Through this communal effort, the maquiladoras have been pressured to address some of the violence that has arisen alongside their industrial endeavors. This essay examines how the Ocho de Marzo’s strategy for manipulating the notions of their community’s scale has successfully countered a multinational corporate discourse of globalization as a delocalizing phenomenon.

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