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Networks of Labour Activism: Collective Action across Asia and Beyond

Journal article
Authors Sabrina Zajak
Niklas Egels-Zandén
Nicola Piper
Published in Development and Change
Volume 48
Pages 899–921
ISSN 0012-155X
Publication year 2017
Published at Centre for Retailing
Centre for Business in Society
Department of Business Administration, Management & Organisation
Pages 899–921
Language en
Keywords international migration, migration governance, migrant rights activism
Subject categories Business Administration


As an Introduction to the Debate section that follows, this article develops the concept of ‘Networks of Labour Activism’ (NOLA) as a distinct, and important, aspect of cross-border, cross-organizational mobilization of workers, trade unions and other organizations and groups. NOLAs are seen as different from traditional labour activist networks in that they are neither solely connected to the position of labour in production processes, nor wholly reliant on the soft and discursive power of advocacy coalitions. The authors understand NOLAs to be characterized by the interaction of different types of labour rights, social movement and community organizations, joining forces in complex forms of strategizing vis-à-vis multiple targets. Thus, cross-boundary strategizing (across organizational and geographical divides) is seen as a basic characteristic of NOLAs. The authors argue that NOLAs continue to be deeply embedded in political-economic contexts of the state and global value chains, and alliance formation reflects the peculiar vulnerabilities and constraints resulting from this embeddedness. This Introduction draws on multiple studies of NOLAs from around the world, but its main focus is on some of those Asian countries which are at the centre of global supply chain capitalism and labour exploitation, and which have become the laboratory for new forms of networked worker agency and activism.

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