Transnational Advocacy Networks
Philippines & Bangladesh – Do the Number of Actors Matter?
LABOR RIGHTS & TANs
Labor rights include the right to safe working conditions, fair pay, the right to organize into unions, and the right to strike. While this is not a definitive list of rights, they are rights that have been recognized by most nations for decades and are enshrined by United Nations (UN) declarations and conventions. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted in 1948, states in Article 23 that everyone “has the right to…just and favourable conditions of work; …the right to just and favourable remuneration; …the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests” (UN Declaration). The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), entered into force in 1976, states in Article 7 that each state which is a party to the covenant recognizes the rights, “to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work which ensure…fair wages…equal pay for equal work…safe and healthy working conditions” (UN ICESCR). Furthermore, Article 8 states that everyone has a right to form trade unions and the right to strike, though strikes are restricted in that they must be “exercised in conformity with the laws of the particular country.”
It is important to understand that there are two types of obligations imposed on the signatory states. The first obligation of the states is to not act in a manner that deprives workers of those rights. The second obligation of the states is to act in a manner that protects those rights when threatened by others, such as the companies employing the workers. The first obligation costs little in the way of state resources while the second could cost substantial amounts of money as well as labor hours spent on enforcement. Furthermore, a state may believe the best interests of its country will be served most effectively by not enforcing these labor rights because of the increased economic benefits realized when companies, especially multi-national corporations, are permitted to violate these rights, and the government will therefore either ignore violations or in some cases assist the abusive corporations in committing these violations.
When it comes to corporations’ behavior towards employees, not to mention the environment or indigenous groups, there are two competing ideologies. Milton Friedman espoused what is probably the most contentious of the two when he said, “There is one and only one social responsibility of business-to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud” (Friedman 133). This statement, taken at face value, seems to imply that stakeholder values, if considered at all, are secondary to the shareholders’ desire for monetary gain by way of profits. However, corporations have historically found that some stakeholder values must be accounted for and given some importance in their operations if they don’t want to alienate their consumer base by committing egregious violations of human rights, including labor rights. Nike, Reebok, Dole, and Nestle are a few companies that have had to deal with consumer pressures as a result of their business activities being revealed to the public resulting in demonstrations and boycotts, and eventually a believable distancing statement, or a change of policy to appease the consumers at large and the various advocacy groups involved in the campaigns against those companies.
The public receives information on human rights abuses by states and corporations primarily because of the efforts of various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and inter-governmental organizations (IGOs), with the NGO’s usually developing the first story on any given issue at hand and picked up on by the press. These advocacy groups engage in unified efforts to both bring the activities of the state and the corporations into the public spotlight in an effort to “shame and blame” governments and companies, and as a result of the shaming to be forced to change their behaviors. However, according to Murdie and Davis, shaming by itself is not enough to bring about change. “Improvements in human rights practices result from the interaction of shaming by HROs with a domestic presence of HROs within the targeted state and/or pressure by third-party states, individuals, and organizations” (Murdie and Davis 2012). These unified NGOs form what are called Trans-national Advocacy Networks (TANs). Keck and Sikkink describe TANs as “those actors working internationally on an issue, who are bound together by shared values, a common discourse, and dense exchanges of information and services” (Keck & Sikkink, 1999). Notable with this definition is the non-exclusion of inter-governmental organizations (IGOs) like the UN and the agencies under its umbrella, individuals in the press, and even members of legislative bodies and executives of states.
RESEARCH QUESTION & METHODOLOGY
The purpose of this paper is to determine if the number of actors involved in any given TAN is a possible explanation for the degree of success enjoyed by the TAN. Having not been able to find a comprehensive list of issues and the groups involved in advocating for those issues, I have had to rely on a qualitative analysis in what will understandably be an inchoate study. By looking at labor rights issues in two distinct areas; labor rights abuses in the Philippines and Bangladesh. I believe the overall event history that details many if not all of the actors, will develop a picture of whether the number of actors involved matters at all and, if so, to what degree. This study will hopefully serve as a jumping off point for further research into the factors that most powerfully affect TANs in terms of their effectiveness, pointing out areas where they are inherently strong or weak depending on the issues being advocated for and the type of opposition they face. In this analysis I will look at the history of labor unions and labor issues in question in each country, the various actors who are involved in those issues and when they come into play, as well as any verifiable effects that the TANs have on either the corporate behaviors or the state’s legislative and executive responses. The effects that the TANs have that may lead to a conclusion of effectiveness are identified by any changes made by the state or by corporations involved in the issue that benefit those being abused. This would be true regardless of whether the change is legislative or a shift in corporate policy and procedures that could be seen to serve as a method of reduction in the violations of labor rights by either of those parties.
This research is limited in that there is no way to account for the combined resources available to each individual actor or to the TANs as a whole, whether the resource in question is monetarily based, or based on political clout. Furthermore, it is almost impossible to account for the resources spent by corporations and actors that stand in opposition to the human rights oriented TANs, which could also include state police forces or armed militias, whether employed by the state or the corporations directly or indirectly. In addition to this, it is not within the scope of this research to account for any potential effects arising from the condition of the global economy and competing human rights issues that also seek compete for the attention of the public at large and the politicians who may place those competing issues above the labor issues being explored in this paper. In short, this study is limited by a vast number of variable that are not, and as far as I know cannot, be controlled for at this time.
LABOR RIGHTS IN THE PHILIPPINES
There are eight core labor Conventions from the International Labour Organization (ILO Core). The Philippines has ratified all of them. Convention 87 is the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize. Convention 98 is the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining. These two Conventions have been repeatedly violated for decades, either by the government, the military forces, rebel military forces, or by the corporations who do not want union activities to affect their profits. These two conventions were ratified by the Philippines in 1953 and have been in force in for nearly 60 years. Philippines law also grants workers the right to organize and bargain collectively, though there are some restrictions on public sector unionization among other things.
Professor Jorge V. Sibal of the University of the Philippines School of Labor and Industrial Relations has identified three major features of the trade union movement in the Philippines—“communist infiltration and influence, government intervention, and management domination” (Sibal 2004). The cold war era was a time of communist repression, though it was also a time of growing collective bargaining between labor organizations and corporations. During this time, in 1972, martial law was declared by President Ferdinand Marcos and lasted until 1981. In 1974 the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) became the primary representative force for labor as part of a tripartite system between labor, government and industry. That same year the Labor Code of the Philippines was enacted and served to consolidate all of the labor related laws of the nation. It promoted unionization and collective bargaining through the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC). However, strikes and other organizational activities were banned as they were seen as weapons of communists and other insurgents, and so served to weaken trade unions while promoting their formation.
In 1986 President Marcos was replaced by Cory Aquino, who supported another labor center within the country; the Labor Advisory Consultative Council (LACC) along with the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), or May First Labour Movement, which was formed May 1st, 1980. The Marcos rise to power was fueled in large part by socialists, communists, intellectuals, and in large part will explain some of the issues that surround labor rights in the country. For example, the KMU labor organization is seen by some as primarily communistic and militant in its approach, relying primarily on rhetoric and violence to stir conflict for its own power. On the other hand, the TUCP as a competing center of trade unionism is seen by some as an ally of the state, regardless of the desires of the labor forces within the country. Research has confirmed this generally, though there have been circumstances where the two have found common ground (KMU News 2012). Specifically in leveling criticism at the government for not doing enough to address the extrajudicial killings, threats, and abuse leveled against union leaders and other human rights advocates after having been investigated by a High Level Mission of the ILO in September of 2009 (ILO HLM 2009). From 2001 to 2010 Gloria Arroyo held the president’s seat in the Philippines, and during the first portion of her presidency human rights abuses against labor rights movements were rampant, though the alleged killings dropped drastically from thirty-three reported in 2006, to a handful per year afterward, with only four in 2011, the most recently reported year by the International Trade Union Conference (ITUC Philippines 2012).
Based on research done by the ITUC between 2006 and 2011; in 2006, 33 union organizers and supporters were killed. At the end of 2006, there had not been a single conviction for any of the extrajudicial killings of dozens of trade union leaders and activists since 2001 (ITUC Philippines 2007). In an effort to try and deflect continued international pressure, President Arroyo appointed a commission to investigate the union related killings and provide recommendations to the state. The commission found evidence to suggest that elements in the military were involved in a number of the killings. In 2007 there was a significant drop in the number of cases of attacks and killings according to the independent NGO Karapatan (Karapatan 2010). In February of 2007, Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, visited the Philippines. He took the Philippines commission report one step farther when he found that the Philippines military was in “a state of almost total denial" about its involvement in the abductions and killings (BBC 2007). During 2008, 218 new cases of trade union and human rights violations were reported (ITUC Philippines 2009). The figure is 26% higher than in 2007. In 2009, the ILO sent a special High Level Mission to the Philippines to investigate the human rights abuses against labor union organizers. In 2010, three trade union officials were shot and killed by unknown assassins and one died after being interrogated by state security forces; three other union members were abducted; one former trade union leader was arrested and charged with murder (ITUC Philippines 2011). Army personnel also harassed and intimated striking workers.
Reacting to the ILO missions' findings, the government established the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (NTIPC) on January 20th, 2010, as a high-level monitoring body on the application of international labor standards. The NTIPC has been criticized as inadequate because it lacks adequate funding and a dedicated secretariat that is staffed by qualified persons (ITUC Philippines 2012). The ILO has responded to this by beginning a program “Promoting the Effective Recognition and Implementation of the Fundamental Rights of Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining in the Philippines” which began in March of 2012 and set to be completed September 2013. The program is being funded by the US State Department and has a budget of almost US$750,000. According to the ILO, the project consists of three core parts. The first is to increase the capacities of the Government’s authorities, such as the Department of Labor and Employment and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, at the local and national level. The second element is the promotion of more effective bargaining and dialogue between the state, industry, and labor. Thirdly, the program is intended to assist the Philippines in enforcement actions and the ability to protect potential victims of union and labor rights violations (ILO Work Areas).
Because trade unions are, by design, set up to combat labor rights violations by corporations and by the state, and are not IGO’s, it seems proper that each union should be classified as a separate NGO advocacy group. Also, the combined efforts of each union to effect change at the national level, along with their affiliated unions, parent unions and outside human rights organizations, especially those focused on labor rights also involved in efforts to change state behavior, all need to be included as part of a broad based if somewhat diffused transnational advocacy network. In the case of the Philippines there are 17,000 registered unions, and three major trade union federations claiming to represent a combined 3.4 million workers (ISIP 2012). The two largest, the Federation of Free Workers (FFW) and the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) are affiliated internationally with the ITUC international union foundation which consists of a network of over 175 million workers through an additional 308 affiliate organizations in 155 countries (ITUC About). Based on web searches of press releases related to labor rights in the Philippines by international NGOs, it was determined there were approximately two dozen outside human rights advocacy groups that have been involved in one way or another since 2006. Some of the involved trade related organizations seeking to make changes in the Philippines are the ASEAN Trade Council, the KMP (a militant, left leaning labor organization in the Philippines). Three major IGOs were found with a similar search. The IGOs include the UN, the ILO, and the OECD. As we’ve seen, there are also involved state actors seeking change within the Philippines. The United States is funding an ILO program, has made its concerns known directly to the country, and the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning the impunity with which the Philippines is behaving related to extrajudicial killings involving labor, the press, and other issues (European Parliament).
A few NGOs to have made some progress in involving the IGOs and other states such as the US State Department and bringing a lot of the abuses to the attention of policy centers like the OECD. Brian Campbell, with the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), formerly the International Labor Rights Education & Research Fund, has lobbied the US State Department to reevaluate the amount of aid provided to the Philippines because of the systematic abuses committed against labor activists and unions (Campbell 2007). The KMU petitioned the ILO directly for assistance and can be said directly responsible for the ILOs High Level Mission to investigate (International Labour Office). The ITUC has prepared reports for the WTO General Council to review its trade policies regarding the Philippines (ITUC WTO Report). The ILRF has filed a complaint with the National Contact Point for the OECD regarding alleged abuses of labor rights by agricultural giant Dole (ILRF Petition). While it is likely that any single letter, filing, or report from an NGO would have little effect, the combined efforts of these NGOs have led to increased attention by international legal institutions, foreign governments and a wide number of human rights NGOs around the world. As has been shown by the reports from the ITUC the number of violations has decreased dramatically. Determining whether or not the decrease can be attributed to the increased attention to the labor issues the advocacy groups have brought about is problematic.
As far as the specific changes go, there has been little tangible effect on the laborers in the Philippines, however. New state commissions have been created and training regimens are being developed and implemented within the state’s police and military forces. Corporations operating in the country are starting to operate with a little more caution. Unfortunately, there are still issues that will need to be addressed that have not been thus far. There is increased use of export processing zones by corporations, the use of which allows the companies to bypass some of the laws favoring trade unions. There has been and still is a growing trend toward corporate flexibilization of the labor force which in large part allows the companies to use greater and greater numbers of contract workers who are not legally permitted to organize unions. In addition to this, there is a huge conflict between the goals of labor rights advocacy IGOs at the international level, such as the ILO, and the requirements for aid set by the organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Various criticisms have been leveled against these entities for their implicit statements that increased labor protections are anathema to wealth creation by industry, and that deregulation of these standards where they exist is in a country’s best interests financially. The ITUC issued a news release in October of 2012 which addressed this conflict,
The 2013 edition of the World Bank’s Doing Business report, released today, makes unfounded claims that weakening labour regulations will stimulate job creation. It states that countries that reduce dismissal notice periods or severance pay “are addressing one of the main factors deterring employers from creating jobs in the formal sector”. (Doing Business 2013, p 100)
This claim contradicts one of the finding of the Bank’s World Development Report 2013, launched earlier this month, which stated, “New data and more rigorous methodologies have spurred a wave of empirical studies over the past two decades on the effects of labor regulation…. Most estimates of the impacts on employment levels tend to be insignificant or modest” (WDR 2013, p 261) (ITUC News)
This new development by the World Bank with its Doing Business report is also contradictory to a position it took just a year earlier. According to Resilience, Equity and Opportunity: The World Bank’s Social Protection and Labor Strategy 2012-2022, prepared by Cecilia Costella and Adea Kryeziu, the World Bank had committed itself to engage in external consultations for a new “Social Protection and Labour Strategy” (Costella and Kryeziu 2012)
LABOR RIGHTS IN BANGLADESH
Like the Philippines, Bangladesh has signed and ratified the ILO’s core conventions, including Convention 87, the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, and Convention 98, the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining. These rules were ratified by Bangladesh in June 1972. These rights are protected under Bangladesh law, though there has been a long history of failure to protect them. Again, similar to the situation in the Philippines, for decades there has been systematic abuse of labor organizers and allies either by the state and its forces or by the corporations, with either the implicit or explicit support of the state. At times, some labor protections regarding unionization and striking have been either completely disallowed under a state declared emergency, once lasting for two years, while at all other times the requirements for labor organization and collective bargaining are excessively onerous and is such that the rules greatly favor the corporations and the political regime in place. The spate of fires in the ready-made garment (RMG) sector over the past several years in Bangladesh necessitate mentioning that ILO Convention 155 (Occupational Safety and Health Convention), which aims in Article IV, “to prevent accidents and injury to health arising out of, linked with or occurring in the course of work, by minimizing, so far as is reasonably practicable, the causes of hazards inherent in the working environment.” It should be noted, however, that neither the Philippines nor the US have ratified Convention 155.
Zia Rahman and Tom Langford explain in some detail the history of labor unions in Bangladesh in their chapter “Why Labour Unions Have Failed Bangladesh’s Garment Workers” from the 2012 ILO publication Labour in the Global South: Challenges and Alternatives for Workers. The labor movement in Bangladesh is still fighting off the vestiges of the colonial era that lasted nearly 200 years, until 1947, at which point it became East Bengal; a part of Pakistan. These early unions were either nationalist or leftist, and very anti colonial. Because of this focus, and the fact that they were mostly rural based and dispersed through the region, the unions never really developed a discrete labor philosophy. Adding to the problem was the fact that what did exist in the way of unionization was separated from each other because of their differences, such as caste, ethnicity, and religion. After decolonization three large unions stepped up to replace the old British All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC). The Bengal National Chamber of Labour (BNCL) was Muslim and pro-government at the time. The Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) was formed within seven Hindu provinces, supporting a different party. The Indian Federation of Labour (IFL) was created to serve Allied and Western interests.
The cold war era saw West Pakistan aligning more closely with US interests, while East Pakistan (Bangladesh) was more ideologically in tune with progressive and communist goals. From 1947 through 1971 the labor parties remained politicized, corrupt, rife with nepotism, and influenced heavily by charismatic labor leaders. These unions were more interested in state patronage and personal gain than they were in the lives and conditions of the workers. The late 1950s saw unions under the direct control of the various political parties, until 1958 when martial law was declared by General Ayub Khan. At this time the political actions of unions were banned and union leaders and workers were arrested, though there were some efforts at reorganization. In 1972 after the “War of Independence” Bangladesh came under the rule of the Awami League which began a heavily socialist economic program where over 90% of the nation’s industry was nationalized. A progressive labor policy was implemented that incorporated Workers’ Management Councils into the different industries, though in 1975 the labor organizations were all consolidated and incorporated into the government as a state union.
Following this, and in the same year, a coup led by General Ziaur Rahman, was the beginning of a massive shift away from the progressive policies of the past. General Rahman ordered a ban on all union activity under martial law. Two years later he lifted the ban and formed a political front union and a political party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), implemented a registration program for new unions which required 30% of all the workers to sign off on before a union would be allowed to register. In addition to this, General Rahman made the rule so that a labor union could only be formed by the labor arm of a political party. The shift from the progressive policies included massive privatization efforts, based on a policy prescription from the World Bank and the IMF. The previously nationalized assets and industries were sold to political allies well below market value. Rahman was assassinated during a failed coup attempt and was replaced by General H.M. Ershad who continued the privatization started under Rahman. General Ershad also sold off companies and assets at deeply discounted prices (Rahman & Langford 2012).
The ITUC report of 2006 shows a long list of labor rights violations by the government and companies, including kidnappings, torture, and killings of union activists. In 2006 a worker striking over being cheated out of wages was killed after factory management called in mercenary thugs to attack the strikers. When the strikers fought back, management then called on the police who opened fire on the workers. The government blamed the workers for unrest and not the working conditions or pay problems the factories are responsible for. Police invaded one of the offices of the Bangladesh Independent Garment Workers’ Union Federation (BIGUF) and accused the union officers and staff of starting riots. Three people were arrested and beaten, and claim they were tortured, and charged for crimes connected to the violence and unrest caused by protesting and striking workers. Common tactics by employers include intimidation, use of thugs, harassment, and firing in order to make union organizing a costly endeavor. Even the Solidarity Centre, which is an AFL-CIO center, was visited by the government’s intelligence service and police frequently after publishing a pamphlet that explained worker rights (ITUC Bangladesh 2007).
In January of 2007 the military enforced a presidential decreed State of Emergency which prohibited all union meetings and most labor organization related activities. This resulted in increases in violence, threats, and labor rights abuses from the year before. One aspect of this was that to participate in any labor union assembly or event was criminalized and punishable by a two to five year prison sentence. No new trade unions would be permitted to register with the Joint Director for Labour (JDL), and the JDL attempted to de-list the Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Sramik Federation (BGIWF). The US Trade Representative was to have a hearing in Washington and the AFL-CIO petitioned to have GSP privileges revoked from Bangladesh. Labor union leadership of other union federations was contacted by the Director of Labour and they were also threatened unless they stopped cooperating with the complaint that brought the petition by the AFL-CIO (ITUC Bangladesh 2008).
The State of Emergency was lifted December 17th, 2008 after two years of intensified exploitation and abuse of labor rights, of which the garment districts and the export processing zones saw the most and the worst abuses. The 97th ILO Conference report by the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) in 2008 is rife with serious criticism bordering on condemnation of Bangladesh for continuing to permit ILO Convention violations and failing to provide trade unions their full freedoms (ITUC Bangladesh 2009). The ITUC reported that 2009 saw increased violations, especially within the garment sector, with the death of six workers during a protest. In July there was a parliamentary committee of the Labour and Employment Ministry which made a recommendation to set up intelligence units in each industrial sector to keep labor unrest to a minimum. The committee also determined the key reasons for the labor unrest was the lack of union and the failure of the garment factories to pay their workers the minimum wage as set by Bangladesh law (ITUC Bangladesh 2010). An Odhikar (a Bangladesh based human rights NGO) report referenced by the ITUC for 2011 claims that, “135 persons were reported killed and 11,532 injured in political violence. There were 84 extrajudicial killings” (ITUC Bangladesh 2012)
For the same reason each individual trade union was counted individually, along with its affiliates, for the Philippine union section, the same thing was done with Bangladesh. Unlike the Philippines, where the country’s unions can avail themselves of the assistance of three major union federation groups, Bangladesh has at twelve large umbrella federation groups or national trade unions. The best count of trade unions I could find was from the US State Department’s March 8th, 2006 report on Bangladesh for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. “An estimated 15 percent of the approximately 5,450 labor unions were affiliated with 25 officially registered National Trade Unions (NTU). There were also several unregistered NTUs. Unions were generally highly politicized” (US BoD) Memberships of the six federations affiliated with the ITUC amounted to 876,000, while the other six, affiliated with the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) was unavailable (ITUC Affiliated). Many of the same non-union, human rights advocacy NGOs dealing with labor rights in Bangladesh were the same as those covered in the Philippines. The same IGOs were involved to varying degrees, as well.
Conclusion & Discussion
How effective have these unions and their allies been at effecting change on a national level to the benefit of the workers and the labor rights being advocated for? I was not able to find a single reference to a change made by either government that was attributed to the efforts of the unions, the NGOs, the IGOs, or the outside states involved in labor issue advocacy. How effective have these unions and their allies been at making corporations change their behavior toward the workers? I found no references to any company doing anything that would make union organizing or union activities any more available to the workers. However, while the focus has been on labor organizing rights, there have been some very small changes that are obviously being made by the Philippines, Bangladesh, and corporations in regards to workers suffering under terrible conditions.
In Bangladesh hundreds of garment workers have been killed, not by the state and not for union activities, but as the result of unsafe working conditions. Fires in facilities with inadequate safety measures and with management that locks exit doors and bars windows for loss prevention (supposedly) have happened multiple times. The most recent incident on November 24th, 2012 in Ashulia killed over 100 and injured at least 200 people, making it “the most deadly factory fire in the history of the apparel industry in Bangladesh” according to the ILRF (ILRF Fire).
Considering the factory fires have been happening for over a decade it is obvious that meaningful, widespread changes have not been made. However, a few companies are throwing money at the problem in the hopes that either the problems thereby get solved, or more cynically, they will be able to say they are doing what they can and then shift blame back to either the Bangladesh government, or more likely to “disgruntled” workers in the factories. Corporations are also giving the appearance in many cases of distancing themselves from their suppliers who find themselves in the public spotlight. For example, in the most recent fire, CNN has reported that Wal-Mart Stores Inc has already issued a statement that the factory was no longer authorized to manufacture merchandise for their stores, but a supplier had contracted to the factory and upon learning of this the relationship with the supplier was terminated immediately. The Bangladeshi government has ordered an investigation into the fire, though a major supplier to the industry, Li & Fung, based in Hong Kong, stated that it would carry out an investigation on its own (CNN).
Do numbers matter when it comes to TANS and labor rights? As far as getting legislative changes made and acted on accordingly by the state, the answer appears to be a resounding “no.” Even if the thousands of trade unions in each country are totally discounted, what is left is a relatively equal number of NGOs, IGOs, and interested outside states involved in the issue. There is one caveat to this conclusion, though. The greater the number of involved actors, the greater it would seem the likelihood is of having an actor that happens to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right amount of leverage to get something good accomplished. On the other hand, it is possible that the larger the network the more likely internetwork conflicts, information overload, and road-blocking becomes, distracting, stifling or otherwise keeping an effective actor from bringing about the change they would otherwise effect through their efforts.
In terms of labor rights it appears the biggest obstacle is a combination of corporate power and capital, a state’s self interest in seeing the capital not going to a competing state, state leaders’ desires to retain and acquire power, the power and authority of in-state businesses and their trade organizations, and the power relationships between individual unions themselves seeking to serve their own particular immediate interests over the broader interests of workers generally. The high degree of politicization evident in both the Philippine and Bangladesh unions just exacerbate the effects of the latter. Furthermore, appearances suggest there might be an effect based on the pursuit of an economically oriented neoliberal free-trade ideal, supported in policies by powerful IGOs like the IMF and the World Bank, and evidenced in the way Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) are designed. This, in addition to the gains that are made by the more powerful entrepreneurs and industry leaders who lobby for their interests through their own NGOs, make labor rights a very difficult issue to address for the human rights NGOs. It may be that the industry oriented TANs are simply much better funded and organized than the labor oriented TANs.
A serious problem in looking at trade unions and labor rights NGOs in relation to TANs is that it is entirely possible that there is really no such thing as a labor rights TAN, or that the cases I looked at did not deal with any TAN, as it was defined earlier. To revisit the definition provided by Keck & Sikkink at the beginning of this paper, a TAN is “actors working internationally on an issue, who are bound together by shared values, a common discourse, and dense exchanges of information and services.” While all of the involved actors dealt with shared a common discourse, worked in varying degrees on the issue at the international level whether directly or indirectly, and at least give lip service to sharing the values of labor rights, the dense sharing of information between all of them did not, and probably could not exist due to the sheer numbers of actors involved. Furthermore, measuring the density of the exchange of information and services was not done as part of this research, and there may not be a way to quantify or qualify this particular component of the definition.
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