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labor and workers rights: NED Library book list

workers rights are human rights.

read a book from our curated list about labor movements across the world.

this list was created by the Democracy Resource Center.

Authoritarian Legality in China: Law, Workers, and the State by Mary Elizabeth Gallagher

Can authoritarian regimes use democratic institutions to strengthen and solidify their rule? The Chinese government has legislated some of the most protective workplace laws in the world and opened up the judicial system to adjudicate workplace conflict, emboldening China’s workers to use these laws. This book examines these patterns of legal mobilization, showing which workers are likely to avail themselves of these new protections and find them effective. Gallagher finds that workers with high levels of education are far more likely to claim these new rights and be satisfied with the results. However, many others, left disappointed with the large gap between law on the books and law in reality, reject the courtroom for the streets. Using workers’ narratives, surveys, and case studies of protests, Gallagher argues that China’s half-hearted attempt at rule of law construction undermines the stability of authoritarian rule. New workplace rights fuel workers’ rising expectations, but a dysfunctional legal system drives many workers to more extreme options, including strikes, demonstrations and violence.

Workers and Thieves: Labor Movements and Popular Uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt by Joel Beinin

Since the 1990s, the Middle East has experienced an upsurge of wildcat strikes, sit-ins, and workers’ demonstrations. Well before people gathered in Tahrir Square to demand the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, workers had formed one of the largest oppositional movements to authoritarian rule in Egypt. In Tunisia, years prior to the 2011 Arab uprisings, the unemployed chanted in protest, “A job is a right, you pack of thieves!” Despite this history, most observers have failed to acknowledge the importance of workers in the social ferment preceding the removal of Egyptian and Tunisian autocrats and in the political realignments after their demise. In Workers and Thieves, Joel Beinin corrects this by surveying the efforts and impacts of the workers’ movements in Egypt and Tunisia since the 1970s. He argues that the 2011 uprisings in these countries–and, importantly, their vastly different outcomes–are best understood within the context of these repeated mobilizations of workers and the unemployed over recent decades.

Solidarity: The Great Workers Strike of 1980 by Michael Szporer

In the summer of 1980, the eyes of the world turned to the Gdansk shipyard in Poland which suddenly became the nexus of a strike wave that paralyzed the entire country. The Gdansk strike was orchestrated by the members of an underground free trade union that came to be known as Solidarnosc [Solidarity]. Despite fears of a violent response from the communist authorities, the strikes spread to more than 750 sites around the country and involved over a million workers, mobilizing its working population. Faced with crippling strikes and with the eyes of the world on them, the communist regime signed landmark accords formally recognizing Solidarity as the first free trade union in a communist country. The union registered nearly ten million members, making it the world’s largest union to date. In a widespread and inspiring demonstration of nonviolent protest, Solidarity managed to bring about real and powerful changes that contributed to the end of the Cold War.

Challenging Social Inequality: The landless Rural Worker’s Movement and Agrarian Reform in Brazil by Miguel Carter

In Challenging Social Inequality, an international and interdisciplinary group of scholars and development workers explores the causes, consequences, and contemporary reactions to Brazil’s sharply unequal agrarian structure. They focus on the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST)—Latin America’s largest and most prominent social movement—and its ongoing efforts to confront historic patterns of inequality in the Brazilian countryside. Several essays provide essential historical background for understanding the MST. They examine Brazil’s agrarian structure, state policies, and the formation of rural civil-society organizations. Other essays build on a frequently made distinction between the struggle for land and the struggle on the land. The first refers to the mobilization undertaken by landless peasants to demand government land redistribution. The struggle on the land takes place after the establishment of an official agricultural settlement. The main efforts during this phase are geared toward developing productive and meaningful rural communities. The last essays in the collection are wide-ranging analyses of the MST, which delve into the movement’s relations with recent governments and its impact on other Brazilian social movements. In the conclusion, Miguel Carter appraises the future of agrarian reform in Brazil.

The Cambridge Handbook of Labor and Democracy by Angela B Cornell, Mark Barenberg

We are currently witnessing some of the greatest challenges to democratic regimes since the 1930s, with democratic institutions losing ground in numerous countries throughout the world. At the same time organized labor has been under assault worldwide, with steep declines in union density rates. In this timely handbook, scholars in law, political science, history, and sociology explore the role of organized labor and the working class in the historical construction of democracy. They analyze recent patterns of democratic erosion, examining its relationship to the political weakening of organized labor and, in several cases, the political alliances forged by workers in contexts of nationalist or populist political mobilization. The volume breaks new ground in providing cross-regional perspectives on labor and democracy in the United States, Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Beyond academia, this volume is essential reading for policymakers and practitioners concerned with the relationship between labor and democracy.

Corporate Responsibility and Labour Rights: Codes of Conduct in the Global Economy by Rhys Owen Jenkins, Ruth Pearson, Gill Seyfang

The emergence of voluntary corporate codes of conduct since the early 1990s is both a manifestation of and a response to the process of globalization. They have been part of a more general shift away from state regulation of transnational corporations towards corporate self-regulation in the areas of labour and environmental standards and human rights. This work provides a critical perspective on the growth and significance of corporate codes with a particular focus on working conditions and labour rights. It brings together work by academics, practitioners and activists.

Human Rights and Labor Solidarity: Trade Unions in the Global Economy by Susan L Kang

Human Rights and Labor Solidarity analyzes trade unions’ campaigns to link local labor rights disputes to international human rights frameworks, thereby creating external scrutiny of governments. As a result of these campaigns, states engage in what political scientist Susan L. Kang terms a normative negotiation process, in which governments, trade unions, and international organizations construct and challenge a broader understanding of international labor rights norms to determine whether the conditions underlying these disputes constitute human rights violations. In three empirically rich case studies covering South Korea, the United Kingdom, and Canada, Kang demonstrates that this normative negotiation process was more successful in creating stronger protections for trade unions’ rights when such changes complemented a government’s other political interests. She finds that states tend not to respect stronger economically oriented human rights obligations due to the normative power of such rights alone. Instead, trade union transnational activism, coupled with sufficient political motivations, such as direct economic costs or strong rule of law obligations, contributed to changes in favor of workers’ rights.

Making Globalization Work for Women: The Role of Social Rights and Trade Union Leadership by Valentine M Moghadam, Suzanne Franzway, Mary Margaret Fonow

Making Globalization Work for Women explores the potential for trade unions to defend the socioeconomic rights of women in a global context. Looking at labor policies and interviews with people in unions and nongovernmental organizations, the essays diagnose the problems faced by women workers across the world and assess the progress that unions in various countries have made in responding to those problems. Some concerns addressed include the masculine culture of many unions and the challenges of female leadership within them, laissez-faire governance, and the limited success of organizations working on these issues globally. Making Globalization Work for Women brings together in a synthetic and fruitful conversation the work and ideas of feminists, unions, NGOs, and other human rights workers.

The Taming of Free Speech: America’s Civil Liberties Compromise by Laura M Weinrib

Judicial enforcement of the Bill of Rights is a defining feature of American constitutional democracy, yet in the first half of the twentieth century, neither freedom of speech nor court-centered constitutionalism commanded broad-based consensus. The Taming of Free Speech explains how lawyers and activists convinced Americans to entrust their civil liberties to the courts. When class war shook the nation’s institutions, labor radicals within the American Civil Liberties Union claimed a right to agitate through organized economic pressure–a right of workers to picket, boycott, and strike. Over time, they hitched those commitments to a conservative constitutional tradition that valorized individual rights. At the height of the New Deal, the corporate bar and its clients reluctantly accepted judicial deference to social and economic regulation. In place of property rights, they redeployed the First Amendment to shield business interests from the intrusive reach of the state. In an age of totalitarianism abroad and administrative discretion at home, a powerful Bill of Rights protected conservatives as well as radicals, industry as well as labor.

Human Rights, Labor Rights, and International Trade by Lance A Compa, Stephen F Diamond

Contributors to Human Rights, Labor Rights, and International Trade provide the first comprehensive view of labor rights in the international trade system and the avenues open to worker rights claims in the global economy under international human rights instruments, U.S. trade laws, free trade agreements, labor rights litigation, and corporate codes of conduct. They address worker rights from the standpoints of human rights concerns, trade and development policy, and labor law principles. Developments in the global economy – including the European Union and the ILO; NAFTA; GATT and the new WTO; and the Japanese organization of the Pacific Rim – create issues regarding migration patterns, resource conservation and environmental protection, foreign policy, and labor. Combining the rarefied atmosphere of human rights theory with the nitty-gritty details of worker organizing, this book addresses the issue of distinguishing which worker and trade union rights are fundamental human rights and which are really assertions of privileges or claims for benefits.