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Monday, March 28, 2016

Four Factors That Influence Union Globalization


Unionization has declined in the U.S. over the past few decades as global pressure mounts.  Supply vines now reach across the globe and transfer values and information as much as they do products. Will transnational unionization be an important factor for international business?

No doubt globalization and international business have taken their toll on American unionization that no longer has the same level of influence over nationally based supply chains. As parts of the supply chain move overseas they also move out of the socio-political environment that protects union rights in the U.S. and into lands that may or may not be friendly to organized labor.

A journal article in Human Resource Development lists governance gaps, collective bargaining, standards markets and complementary regimes as four regimes when thinking about global unions ( Donaghey, et. al. 2014). They provide a good framework. I have adjusted these based on my own experience and knowledge:

Governance and Treaties: Collective bargaining exists within a legal context that isn't the same in every country. Trans-international unions will need to work within multiple legal frameworks. Treaties may allow for unionization in specific industries that have developed and integrated supply chains but are unlikely to be a priority issues for governments that want to increase their GNP rather than open themselves up to future unionization.

Cultural Collective Bargaining: Collective bargaining is a social movement that must be palatable to people. Germany and the U.S. accept unions as part of their cultural perspective while other countries may feel unions are a foreign concept. The people must believe that unions are part of their cultural identity and are beneficial to join without violating their sense of self.

Market Parity: Unions are more popular in places where manufacturing industries reside. Some countries will not accept unions because of the need to ensure manufacturing costs stay low. To some it is believed that unions increase cost of doing business and therefore may be thwarted by companies and governments alike Until pricing and manufacturing parity exists in different countries unions are not likely to gain competitive ground.

Complementary Regimes: In order for unions to work together they will need to share similar goals and ideals. As long as the structure and perspectives of unions have failed to gain an international identity they will be segmented by local worker needs. It is possible that information transference and globalization continues unions will find more solidarity in their movements.

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