Almost on a daily basis newspapers and magazines tell us of the exploitative circumstances under which workers produce garments for the global market. While local trade unions, international NGOs, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) officers claim to act in the interests of garment workers, the latter continue to lack voice and representation in their everyday struggles for better and fairer employment. Focusing on a South Indian garment cluster, the article explores the reasons why key labour rights, such as the freedom of association, keep being violated, and why local trade union and international NGO activists fail to prevent such violations. Through the lens of a major labour dispute, we consider the decline of a once successful trade union and the challenges of emerging local–international activist collaborations. The article concludes that for union, NGO, and corporate interventions to be successful in the context of a liberalising state, the political economy of labour has to be taken into account, and labour struggles have to be understood within their political and historical context.
De Neve, G. (2008), "Global garment chains, local labour activism: New challenges to trade union and NGO activism in the Tiruppur garment cluster, South India", De Neve, G., Peter, L., Pratt, J. and Wood, D.C. (Ed.) Hidden Hands in the Market: Ethnographies of Fair Trade, Ethical Consumption, and Corporate Social Responsibility (Research in Economic Anthropology, Vol. 28), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 213-240. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0190-1281(08)28010-8
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