Working Papers

Is it Labor’s Turn to Globalize?

Twenty-first Century Opportunities and Strategic Responses


Neoliberal globalization is commonly seen as the nemesis of labor. A counter-thesis is offered here. Neoliberal capitalism threatens labor at every level, from the local to the national to the global, but rather than assuming that the global level is labor’s Achilles heel, it makes sense to explore how mobilization at the global level can contribute to contestation at the local and national level. Like any reorganization of production, global neoliberal capitalism creates opportunities for counterorganization. Capital is thoroughly globalized. Could it now be labor’s turn? Labor’s response to these opportunities has involved an interconnected diversity of mutually reinforcing organizational forms and strategies. They range from restructured global confederations to new networks of transnational labor NGOs to new orientations toward the global arena on the part of national unions. Synergies among old and new organizational forms have the potential to make the twenty- first century ‘labor’s turn to globalize.