Monitoring Workers’ Rights: The Limits of Voluntary Social Compliance Initiatives in Labor Repressive Regimes

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Since the early 1990s, a range of corporate monitoring and multi-stakeholder initiatives have sought to address the violation of workers’ rights by monitoring suppliers in global supply chain and attempting to remediate violations. However, their effectiveness in the area of freedom of association rights has been limited, particularly in labor-repressive regimes. This is because these initiatives have pursued inadequate strategies and lack either traditional forms of state power, notably the ability to sanction violators, or the leverage provided by activist campaigns. Recent social compliance program approaches, such as forming of worker-management committees, are largely of limited effectiveness in regimes in which workers face employer or state controlled unions. And most production in light industry supply chains such as apparel takes place in labor repressive regimes.