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Series 2, No. 4 (Fall 2000): Who Can Protect Workers' Rights? The Workplace Codes of Conduct Debates


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The forces of globalization are increasingly prompting concerns for low-wage workers' rights in multinational enterprises around the world. Workplace codes of conduct have been a popular response to the need to protect workers and assure consumers that their purchases are not connected to human rights abuses. However, critics charge that such codes superficially put "a human face" on exploitative capitalism or damage poor workers' chances to earn much-needed income. Particularly in the recent debates surrounding "unfettered" world trade, the welfare of local workers is hotly contested, but little has been heard from the workers themselves about their concerns. This issue of Human Rights Dialogue explores whether the design and implementation of codes of conduct actually reflects the human rights interests and priorities of those that they are designed to protect, and how such codes impact their notions of human rights. Local workers and activists suggest ways to better meet human rights needs in the global workplace.


Introduction: Who Can Protect Workers' Rights? The Workplace Codes of Conduct Debates | 10/06/00
This issue of Human Rights Dialogue explores ways to increase participation in the human rights movement and access to the benefits of human rights through worker's rights and workplace code of conduct.

Factory Rules versus Codes of Conduct: Which One Makes Sense for Business? | 10/06/00
Some activists believe corporations are making sacrifices to implement codes, but it seems clear that corporations could in fact be doing much more. To businesses, levying fines for lateness makes sense, enforcing codes of conduct doesn’t. Author(s): Stephen Frost

Codes of Conduct Don't Work: A View from the Factory Floor | 10/06/00
When workers come together to challenge the rising tide of sweatshop conditions, they strive for change that affects their lives and is felt throughout the communities, not something that exists only on paper. Author(s): Trinh Duong

A Template for Ground-Up Workable Codes | 10/06/00
As Northern labor, religious, and nongovernmental organizations press apparel retailers and manufacturers for stronger codes of conduct and transparent verification systems, in Latin America and Asia the discussion focuses on both the strengths and limitations of such codes. Author(s): Lynda Yanz

Interview with Medea Benjamin | 10/06/00
Human Rights Dialogue interviews Medea Benjamin on the role of NGOs in establishing a global code of conduct from the global north to the global south, and from China to the U.S. Author(s): Medea Benjamin

Speaking with a Unified Voice: Student Consumers Make Targeted Change | 10/06/00
The United States has experienced a renewed wave of student activism against widespread violations of workers’ rights in factories that produce licensed apparel. United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) has led this movement. Author(s): David Moore

A Labor Viewpoint on Workplace Codes of Conduct | 10/06/00
The plight of banana workers highlights the need for new international trade union action: the code of conduct campaign to fight the brutal consequences of unregulated corporate hegemony. The right to form unions is not just one of many codes needed: It is the primary one. Author(s): Andy Banks

NGO-Labor Union Tensions on the Ground | 10/06/00
There are serious tensions between NGOs and trade unions, two major advocates of workers’ rights, that underlie any discussion of workplace codes of conduct. The tensions stem from questions of legitimacy that bedevil both communities. Author(s): Lance Compa

The Promise of Corporate Codes of Conduct | 10/06/00
Both voluntary codes of conduct and legal regulation are clearly needed, but Donaldson argues that codes are more effective when owned by the corporations or industries themselves. Author(s): Thomas Donaldson


More Resources on Workplace Codes of Conduct | 10/06/00

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