Workers’ Participation and Transnational Social Movement Interventions at the Shop Floor: The Urgent Appeal System of the Clean Clothes Campaign

  • Jeroen Merk
  • Sabrina ZajakEmail author


Social movements have become increasingly important in the regulation of working conditions in a context where the intensification of global economic integration, the consolidation of power in multinational enterprises, increased financialization and marketization, and recurrent economic crisis have undermined the capacity of trade unions to co-determine working conditions in transnational businesses. With unions and industrial modes of worker participation being under severe pressure, social movements and civil society organizations receive increasing attention as new actors in industrial relations.

This chapter discusses the opportunities and limits for social movements providing alternative means for worker participation along global supply chains. Global supply chains present particular barriers to organizing at production sites due to their capacity to relocate and source at locations with limited trade union rights. We look at the urgent appeal system of the Clean Clothes Campaign as a unique form of transnational participation of workers at production sites. We argue that the appeal system is a form of intervention that facilitates, enhances, and stabilizes worker participation at plant level, but it also is a mechanism of leverage in cases were shop-floor negotiations fail or don’t take place altogether. Our empirical findings suggest that institutionalized forms of worker participation are still necessary for workers to have a relevant impact on the rules of the workplace, as the urgent appeal system operates mainly in response to worker rights violations, but it does little to address the root causes driving these violations.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social and Political ScienceThe University of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  2. 2.Institute for Social MovementsRuhr-University BochumBochumGermany

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