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There are several strategies unions can pursue to improve employment conditions and worker's rights in the global apparel and footwear industries.

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Introduction

There are several strategies unions can pursue to improve employment conditions and worker's rights in the global apparel and footwear industries. As a strategy consultant to a union such as Unite, I would focus on four methods: Linking labor standards to trade, implementing a global worker education initiative, forcing organizations to create a corporate code of conduct that will be enforced by several independent monitors, and monetizing labor practices. Using global trade as a vehicle for improving enforcement of labor rights as well as corporate codes of conduct will help to protect the fundamental rights to associate and organize trade unions, which provide, in my opinion, the only sustainable mechanism for ensuring that workers have a voice in the larger economic debate. The initiatives would also help protect against excessive working hours, underpayment, and inadequate occupational health and safety standards. But first, before focusing on the latter methods, I would educate the rank and file to understand the importance of international solidarity for all workers. I would also initiate exchange programs between union members nationally and internationally to share experiences and ideas on specific company issues. It is also important to form alliances and joint actions with social movements on issues of mutual concern to gain more man power for the campaign. ...read more.

Middle

The first is the idea that corporate codes of conduct impose a private regulatory system on companies operating in the global economy, enforced by consumer choice. With several monitoring agencies, companies will be held publicly accountable for their labor conditions and will be compared to their marketplace competitors, forcing them to improve conditions to protect their bottom line. Also, while the corporate codes of conduct are one method of holding corporations accountable for basic labor standards and forcing more transparency, the workers voices will not be ignored and the fight to organize them will continue, because in my opinion, unions are the organizations that will truly empower them and give them a voice in the global workplace. The second is that corporate codes of conduct are vague and unspecific on purpose, thus they are impossible to enforce and quantify compliance. Also, without effective implementation and monitoring, codes of conduct are virtually meaningless (Nike accountable to its own paid auditors who were encouraged to skew results and exploit one or two "improvements"). Many labor activists have little confidence in these codes of conduct, largely because enforcement is voluntary and generally internally monitored. ...read more.

Conclusion

Consumers can decide whether cheaper cost is worth the exploitation of human life and will naturally begin to compare his/her wages (although not relative to the consumers standard of living) to that of the laborer. I believe the impact will be great. This is a challenge for the consumer who falls under social pressure to purchase brand name apparel and cannot be swayed by such statistics. Often times persons who succumb to this pressure are victims of inadequate resources themselves, relative to others in their country (Air Jordan's by Nike are disproportionately marketed and sold to inner city youth - in my opinion, another socially irresponsible "crime" by Nike). By allowing the consumer to have convenient access to reliable information, he/she becomes an important agent in the was against unfair labor practices by allowing for a shift of the some of the burden of campaigns off over-worked and under staffed unions and labor activists as well as becoming living, vocal symbols (and indicators) of how the companies bottom line can be affected by disgruntled customers, forcing companies to adhere more strictly to their code of conduct and allowing for more transparency of its supply chain and labor practices - leading the general public, unions, and activist community to have the information they need to accurately and confidently identify initiatives to improve labor standards. 1 ...read more.

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