Cornell University

August 10 2007

Kate Bronfenbrenner edits new book on global unions

Kate Bronfenbrenner, Director of Labor Education Research, has edited a book about meeting the challenges of globalization, and how unions must improve their understanding of the changing nature of corporate ownership structures and practices to develop alliances and strategies appropriate to the new environment. The book is a follow-up to the 2006 Global Unions Conference. The following is an excerpt from the publisher, Cornell University Press.

"Global Unions includes original research from scholars around the world on the range of innovative strategies that unions use to adapt to different circumstances, industries, countries, and corporations in taking on the challenge of mounting cross-border campaigns against global firms. This collection emerges from a landmark conference where unionists, academics, and representatives of nongovernmental organizations from the Global South and the Global North met to devise strategies for labor to use when confronting the most powerful corporations such as Wal-Mart and Exxon Mobil."

The workplaces discussed in the book include agriculture (bananas), maritime labor (dock workers), manufacturing (apparel, automobiles, medical supplies), food processing, and services (school bus drivers). Bronfenbrenner's introduction sets the stage for the book, followed by contributions describing specific examples from Asia, Latin America, and Europe. Bronfenbrenner's conclusion focuses on the key lessons for strengthening union power in relation to global capital.

The release of Bronfenbrenner's book will be an international event. It will be featured at a conference sponsored by the American Bar Association International Section in a special session on October 5, entitled International Labor Unions and Global Corporate Campaigns. During this session, there will be a debate and discussion about the book's findings with representatives from labor, management, and government, including representatives from several Global Union Federations. On October 8, the Trades Union Congress (the UK National Labor Federation) will host a book release party inviting scholars, trade unionists, and representatives from labor NGOs from the UK and Europe.


Terry Boswell, Emory University
Kate Bronfenbrenner, Cornell University
Henry Frundt, Ramapo College
Samanthi Gunawardana, University of Melbourne
Tom Juravich, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Kevin Kolben, Rutgers Business School
Valeria Pulignano, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium
Darryn Snell, Monash University
Dimitris Stevis, Colorado State University
Ashwini Sukthankar, International Commission for Labor Rights
Amanda Tattersall, University of Sydney
Peter Turnbull, Cardiff University
Peter Wad, Copenhagen Business School


"The contributors to Global Unions address one of the most pressing questions facing labor and unions in the world today: how can unions confront and address the implications of globalization? The distinctive and original feature of this book is to show in a systematic and sustained way how cross-border campaigns are generated and how problems arise for unions that try to implement them. Kate Bronfenbrenner has set the standard for debate on the effectiveness of global unions."—Peter Fairbrother, Cardiff University

"This is an important book. Kate Bronfenbrenner has brought together a series of essays that examine strategies for cross-border union campaigns. The deeply informed essays engage with strategic questions. The success of such campaigns may well determine the future of unions here and elsewhere, and the future of unions will help to shape the future of us all."—Frances Fox Piven, Graduate Center of the City University of New York

"Global Unions sets a rigorous new standard for research on global union campaigns. It is historic, exciting, and a crucial text for readers in several disciplines such as labor studies, sociology, and political science who are grappling with the most important question of our era: global inequality and modes of collective action to advance democracy and justice."— Dorian T. Warren, Columbia University

"This book confronts the received wisdom that global capital is unchallengeable. It looks at globalization from the perspective of those who actually create the wealth— workers from across the world. In the past trade unions have largely limited their activity to within their own geographical boundaries, usually within the nations in which they are located, yet Global Unions provides a fascinating theoretical understanding of the possibilities for uniting across boundaries. Using well-researched case studies, the book demonstrates the strongest case yet for a new praxis of global unionism. This is a book for academics and unionists alike." — Jane Holgate, Working Lives Research Institute, London Metropolitan University