Book Review: Labor Standards in International Supply Chains: Aligning Rights and Incentives by Daniel Berliner, Anne Regan Greenleaf, Milli Lake, Margaret Levi, and Jennifer Noveck.

AuthorMuhammad, Patricia M.
PositionBook review

Through technological advancement, laymen have garnered a heightened awareness of human rights violations and the lack of enforcement of labor standards in global supply chains. However, one of the greatest difficulties that government agencies, as well as the concerned public, have confronted is a consistent method of enforcing labor standards nationally and through international law.

Political scientists Daniel Berliner, Ann Regan Greenleaf, Milli Lake, Margaret Levi, and Jennifer Noveck begin their analysis of inadequate working conditions and workers' rights by introducing the first modern labor catastrophe--the 1921 Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire which occurred in New York. This labor tragedy brought widespread attention as seamstresses were trapped in close quarters, with no fire alarm, and no means of escape except by jumping from the high elevation to their inevitable deaths. The authors argue that this pivotal event forced the American government to address poor labor standards by enacting legislation to protect workers.

Berliner et al. discuss various 'clusters' of actors [including laborers, government agencies, the public, non-governmental organizations (NGO's), and businesses] as well as circumstances in which workers' rights are protected in developed nations and established in emerging countries. This text focuses on four major countries in its statistical analyses of factors that either determine or correlate with the effectiveness of enforcement of labor protections. The countries included are the United States, Honduras, Bangladesh, and China. The authors discover that developed nations had a higher rate of enacted labor laws, yet found such enactment did not correlate to enforcement. Less developed countries either did not have labor laws to protect workers or enforcement of the existing laws was extremely lax. Factors which attributed to the lack of workers' rights included local law enforcement corruption as well as the mobility of temporary, subcontracted warehouses which did not provide incentive for corporations of the international supply chain to enforce such protections at their own expense. In the text, Berliner et al. also outline the origins of cohesive enforcement of international labor law through the International Labor Organization. As with any other United Nations body, its ability to enforce labor protections vests only with nation-states which ratified mechanisms it issued, and with the use of other...

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