XVII ISA World Congress of Sociology, Sociology on the move, Gothenburg, Sweden, July 2010


RC homepage


Research Committee on
Labour Movements RC44

Programme Coordinator
Dan Clawson, University of Massachusetts, USA, clawson@sadri.umass.edu

Congress Programme

Sessions descriptions

Session 1: Public sociology and labor
Organizer: Michael Burawoy, University of California Berkeley, USA, Burawoy@berkeley.edu
This panel will compare the history of relations of labor sociologists and labor movements in different parts of the world. Papers will examine the way global and local forces shape both labor movements and sociologists, and thus their inter-relations.

Session 2: Precarious labor in the global South
Organizer: Ching Kwan Lee, University of California Los Angeles, USA, cklee@soc.ucla.edu
This session explores the developments and politics of precarious labor (defined broadly to include informal employment, casualization, non-standard work) in the global south. Papers on the following themes are welcome: the political economy, spatial and social organizations of precarious employment; the changing meanings and composition of the informal sectors; new forms of labor organizing and contentious politics by precarious labor; precarious work and gender, class and racial inequality; connections and comparisons of precarious work and workers across localities, countries, global south and global north.

Session 3: European labour: Strategic responses to globalisation and European integration
Organizers: Rebecca Gumbrell-McCormick, University of London, UK, r.gumbrell-mccormick@bbk.ac.uk 
Richard Hyman, London School of Economics, UK, r.hyman@lse.ac.uk
Trade unions in all countries have typically emerged as collective actors at national level, engaging primarily with national governments and nationally-based employers. Responding to the growing internationalisation of economic activity has therefore posed major strategic challenges. In (western) Europe the issues are particularly complex, because cross-national integration within the European Union can be seen both as a reinforcement of the pressures of globalisation and as a protection against neoliberal globalisation. What have been the responses of trade unions in Europe to the challenges of globalisation. How far have these been strategic/proactive rather than merely tactical/reactive? What is the nature of their engagement with the EU level?
Session 4: Labor movements in Asia
Organizer: Lee, Byoung-Hoon, Chung-Ang University, Korea, bhlee@cau.ac.kr
This session intends to discuss about how labor movements in Asian countries have responded to neo-liberal globalization and recent economic crisis from a cross-national comparative perspective. In this session, we hope to identify what challenges and opportunities labor unions in Asian countries have been confronted with under the changing context, and explore what strategies they would develop in order to cope with the crisis of labor and to revitalize labor movements. The session also expects the presentation of interesting cases of success and failure made by labor unions in this continent.

Session 5: Structures and strategies in the emerging global labor movement
Organizer: Peter Evans, University of California Berkeley, USA, pevans@berkeley.edu
The global labor movement that is emerging as the 21st Century opens can only be understood as a complex combination of different kinds of organizational forms and strategies.  The role of transnational networks that link labor organizations with NGOs and social movement organizations has grown but a variety of international trade union organizations continue to play important roles and new examples of international solidarity among national trade unions continue to develop. Different structures are associated with different strategic and ideological visions. This session will explore the prospects for weaving together these diverse structures and strategies to create a more vibrant and effective global labor movement. 

Session 6: Neo-Liberalism and its vulnerabilities
Organizer:  Rick Fantasia. Smith College/USA , rfantasi@smith.edu
Neo-liberalism dominates many, if not most, social spheres in many, if not most, societies.  But neo-liberalism is vulnerable as well, as the current crisis demonstrates.  This session will critically examine the strategies and dynamics of those social formations (groups, unions, and movements of all kinds) that have successfully contested neo-liberal policies or initiatives, and attempt to identify the characteristics of neo-liberalism which make it potentially vulnerable.  Further, the session will consider how employers and governments have shifted THEIR strategies and tactics to meet the resistance.

Session 7: Women and union revitalization
Organizer:  Charlotte Yates, McMaster University, Canada, yatesch@mcmaster.ca
Since 1995, there has been a dramatic increase in the level and diversity of women’s membership in labour unions across the corners of the globe. This points to a critical role for women in union revitalization, including union membership growth, transformation of representative structures and practices, changes to advocacy and political strategies and a redefinition of union goals and identities. In this session/stream, we invite submission of papers that are both empirical and theoretical and contribute to a critical understanding of women and union revitalization. While open to studies that document a particular women’s struggle or the ‘state of women’s union membership’ in a particular country, we are looking in particular for papers that combine reflection on some of the profound challenges facing unions with theoretical and empirical analysis of some aspect(s) of women’s growing and changing role in unions.

Session 8: Rethinking social movement unionism from the periphery: Comparative dilemmas and prospects
Organizer:  Jennifer Jihye Chun, University of British Columbia, Canada, jjchun@interchange.ubc.ca
Social movement unionism has become a robust area of inquiry in global labor studies. Previously associated with the explosion of labor organizing against authoritarian labor regimes in the industrializing periphery (e.g. South Africa, Brazil and Korea), social movement unionism is now considered an important model for challenging the neoliberal assault against workers and unions across North America and Western Europe. This panel explores efforts by labor scholars and labor movements to globalize the concept of social movement unionism, with a focus on the concept's origins in the periphery and the potential pitfalls of comparison.

Session 9: The globalization of guest worker programs: Understanding resurgence and critiquing their consequences for labor
Organizers: Robyn Rodriguez, Rutgers University, USA, robynmrodriguez@optonline.net and Hsia Hsiao-Chuan, Shih Hsin University, Taiwan
Guest worker programs are increasingly being touted by multilateral institutions like the United Nations and governments as a "win-win-win" strategy: a "win" for labor-receiving states which can avail of temporary and inexpensive labor in key industries; a "win" for labor-sending states which can accrue foreign exchange for developmental purposes through migrants' remittances; and a "win" for migrant workers themselves who are given employment opportunities abroad. This panel examines the resurgence of guest worker programs (examining, for instance, the formation of the Global Forum for Migration and Development) and, more importantly critiques this "win-win-win" framework to examine the consequences of these programs for migrant workers.

Session 10:  Organizing across the formal and informal divide
Organizer:  Ilda Lindell, The Nordic Africa Institute, Sweden, ilda.lindell@nai.uu.se
The current informalization and casualization of work are giving rise to new forms of collective mobilization in the Global South. There is a multiplication of collective organizing initiatives emerging from within the informal economy while at the same time trade unions increasingly attempt to organize self-employed and casual workers. The session will focus on the opportunities and the challenges involved in organizing across the formal-informal ‘divide’. How do ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ organizing relate to each other? Can the different interests, rationales and organisational styles be reconciled? What are the prospects for improving ‘decent work’ and ‘voice’ for all workers?

Session 11: Labour and the welfare state: Implications for the South
Organizer:  Björn Beckman, Stockholm University, Sweden, bb@statsvet.su.se
Does the ‘Welfare state’ offer an alternative to neo-liberal globalisation? What is the social and political basis of such an alternative in the labour movement? In the Nordic case it is clear that unions played a critical role. We wish to explore the implications of the ‘Nordic experience’ for labour strategies in the South.  How does it relate to the rapid growth of wage-labour? How does it relate to the ‘democratic development state’ discussed, for instance, by COSATU? 

Session 12: Labour and the environment
Organizer: Jacklyn Cock, University of Witswatersand, South Africa, Jacklyn.Cock@wits.ac.za  
The environment is one of the most pressing issues of our time, and there is widespread although far from universal recognition of its importance.  Environmental action poses both opportunities and complications for labor, creating green jobs, reducing work hazards and pollution, and making possible a sustainable future at the same time as it may potentially threaten some kinds of employment.  This poses issues for workers, unions, community coalitions, and political activity.

Session 13:  Labor geographies
Organizer:  Jamie Peck, University of British Columbia, Canada, jamie.peck@ubc.ca
This panel will explore recent theoretical and substantive developments in the interdisciplinary field of labor geography, which for more than two decades now has been forging distinctly spatial approaches to the study of economic globalization, spaces and scales of labor regulation, transnational activism and networking, local labor market restructuring, and so forth.  Contributions that call attention to spatial, scalar, or geographical aspects of labor mobilization, regulation, and restructuring are welcomed, whether from self-identified labor geographers or not.  The panel will also feature critical evaluations of the project of labor geography, its accomplishments, remaining challenges, and future prospects, framed in both conceptual and substantive terms. 

Session 14: Innovative organizing responses to temporary labour migration
Organizer: Donella Casperz, University of Western Australia, Australia, dcasperz@biz.uwa.edu.au
Neo-liberal globalization is now increasingly characterized by labor migration across national boundaries.  This panel examines trade union responses to this phenomenon.  Do unions organize against these influxes of labor, encouraged by corporations, or do they develop new organizing strategies to incorporate these new, vulnerable workers into national unions?  Do they view these new workers as a threat, or an opportunity?  How do national unions respond politically?  Is race and ethnic difference a mobilizing discourse, or do unions take a more internationalist perspective?  How is the international trade union movement responding?

15. Business Meeting