Barbara Rimml (2003): Labour conflicts in the world factories of the garment industry and International Solidarity Campaigns. An evaluation of the Clean Clothes Campaign’s Urgent Appeals.

The clothing industry gives an illustrative example of economic globalization. Labour-intensive production processes were relocated from industrialized to developing countries since the late 1960s, and today, the largest part of the production is accomplished in developing countries, especially in Asia. Around two third of the global workforce in the clothing industry are young women.

The main characteristics of this employment are its geographical instability and the shift from production in the formal to the informal sector and homework, where conditions at work and labour right violations are worst and workers less protected than in the formal sector. But also in the formal sector, violations of worker rights are common: wages below subsistence level, long working hours and forced overtime, discrimination of women and migrant workers, and most of all, violations of the workers fundamental rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

But the race to the bottom of social standards has also mobilized resistance. In the 1990s, a global movement arose. Many heterogeneous groups are cooperating in the form of international networks, and they often use the Internet to exchange information and mobilize for actions. One of such networks is the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), which was founded in 1990 in the Netherlands and has become active in more than 10 other European countries during the 1990s. In cases of urgent labour conflicts in clothing factories, the CCC sends information and requests for action (Urgent Appeals) to the international networks. Activists all over the world are asked to send protest letters to the factory owner, the government and the transnational corporations who have subcontracted to the factory in question. The idea of such campaigns is to build up international pressure that forces the targeted parties to intervene and to see that the rights of the workers are respected.

This book consists of an evaluation of such campaigns. Did the labour disputes supported by international pressure end in a success or not? Besides giving an overview on the different cases (summaries, statistics, conflict types), successful and unsuccessful cases and their impact on the targeted parties are compared in order to find out why some campaigns were successful and others not.