Labor control regimes and worker resistance in global supply chains

Mark Anner
2015 Labor History  
This article seeks to examine two inter-related dynamics, the relationship between the international dispersion of apparel production and labor control regimes, and the relationship between labor control regimes and patterns of worker resistance. The article argues that where apparel production has concentrated in the last decade has as much to do with labor control regimes as with wages and other economic factors. It suggests that there are three main labor control regimes in the sector: state
more » ... control; market despotism; employer repression. The article then argues that these systems of labor control are conducive to three patterns of worker resistance: wildcat strikes, international accords, and cross-border campaigns. The article explores these arguments by examining examples of apparel global supply chains in Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Honduras. Proponents of a race-to-the-bottom argument would suggest that production goes where wages are lowest, but that argument cannot explain why China continues to dominate apparel production while its wages are four times higher than in Bangladesh. At the same time, those who suggest that production goes where logistics are the most efficient and economies of scale are the greatest (as in China) cannot explain why Vietnam is one of the fastest growing major apparel exporters in the world, or why Honduras is the largest Latin American exporter. Buyers in apparel global value chains want not only to keep costs low, but also to reduce the likelihood of supply chain disruption caused by worker organization and mobilization. Indeed, what this article will show is that the 10 top apparel exporters in the world today reflect three models of labor control. These include state labor control regimes, market labor control
doi:10.1080/0023656x.2015.1042771 fatcat:e4gv2nbknrhm3kdndnlwgtlaw4