Michael Bader, Miriam Saage-Maaß, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nov 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic has sharply exposed the vulnerability of workers in global value chains. Around the world, local and global labor movements struggle under immense pressures to uphold and advance labor and human rights. In doing so, these movements have developed various strategies in the past decades to address inhumane working and living conditions of workers. Next to union organizing and advocacy for law reform on the local and national level in production countries, the transnational legal toolbox now available ranges from multi-stakeholder initiatives, global framework agreements, enforceable brand agreements, workers’ compensation funds and transnational litigation to mandatory human rights due diligence…

…This report offers a toolbox of legal strategies and approaches taken by the labor movement and contextualizes key lessons learned. It furthermore outlines current legal developments with regard to the responsibilities of multinational enterprises. We hope that such an overview helps the movement to align strategically when employing legal tools…

….We are certain that no law or transnational legal proceeding can by any means replace trade union struggle, movement building, transnational campaigning and the collective organising of workers in their quest for change. Still, we believe that laws can serve as an important tool for change: litigation and legal proceedings have the potential to amplify workers’ voices and throw light on particular struggles. Targeted lawsuits can increase pressure on states in the South and North as well as MNEs and local factory owners to bring about reform. Moreover, such lawsuits can help to secure much needed financial compensation, whether through the litigation itself or the pressure it generates. Therefore, we aim to present the various transnational legal tactics that were developed by workers, trade unions and labour movements in their struggle to pursue accountability and change at the factory level following the South Asian factory disasters. In this way, we hope to make them accessible to labour movements and trade unions that are struggling for improvements in the working and living conditions of workers within and outside of the garment industry and beyond South Asia. We hope that this mapping will provide them with tactical assistance in their current and future struggles…