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Keywords:

  • COMMODITY CHAINS;
  • GARMENT PRODUCTION;
  • NEW LABOUR INTERNATIONALISM;
  • WOMEN WORKERS’ ORGANIZATIONS;
  • TRANSNATIONAL NETWORKING;
  • CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY;
  • ETHICAL TRADING INITIATIVE

Abstract

In this article we trace the history of a new form of labour internationalism that emerged in support of women workers’ organizations, in particular in the garment industry, from the 1980s. We tell the story of the emergence of Women Working Worldwide (WWW), a small UK-based NGO that provides solidarity and support for a network of women workers’ organizations in the commodity producing zones of the global South. WWW grew along with other organizations that have succeeded in forcing global corporations to take some responsibility for the employment conditions along their supply chains. In what has become corporate social responsibility (CSR), companies now establish codes of conduct and workplace audits of employment conditions in those factories to which they subcontract manufacturing work. WWW played a key part in the establishment of the Clean Clothes Campaign, Labour Behind the Label and the Ethical Trading Initiative that continue to develop such practices today. WWW used the power of transnational networks to ensure that the needs and voices of women workers were put on the agenda for action. The story of WWW demonstrates the potential to effect change through transnational networking, the extent to which different local organizations can find common cause with each other and the benefits of engaging in locally-focused but transnationally coordinated educational and action research projects.