Co-Sponsored by the History Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northern Illinois University, and the Labor and Working Class History Association
Friday, January 21, 2005
3:00pm-5:00pm, The Newberry Library
The World that Trade Built: International Worker Rights in a Globalizing World, 1959-1999
John French, Duke University
As we enter a new millennium, those of us who study the world's working people find ourselves at the center of a vital policy debate that speaks to societal concerns felt well beyond the usual haunts of academic labor specialists. As early as 1996-1997, the formation of the WTO, with near universal membership, led a number of labor scholars to envisage new possibilities for more vigorously promoting worker rights on a world scale. This paper demonstrates that quite different, and often conflicting proposals have been advanced by trade unions, many of which have no relationship to what is now understood as a "worker rights" or "social" clause in trade.
This article addresses these lacunae by examining trade union efforts to introduce worker rights and/or labor standards into the structure of international trade. After prefatory observations about the social dimension of grade and investment, it briefly explores the labor-trade initiatives since World War II, while highlighting representative proposals for a multilateral "social" or "worker rights" clause, of near-universal coverage, through the GATT/WTO.
Mae M. Ngai, University of Chicago
David Moberg, In These Times labor correspondent
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