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Reviewed by:
  • Global Justice and International Labour Rights ed. by Yossi Dahan, Hanna Lerner, and Faina Milman-Sivan
  • Adelle Blackett
Global Justice in Transnational Labour Law: A Review of Yossi Dahan, Hanna Lerner, and Faina Milman-Sivan, ed., Global Justice and International Labour Rights (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016).

Introductory Overview

Yossi Dahan, Hanna Lerner, and Faina Milman-Sivan remind the reader early of Hugo Sinzheimer’s affirmation: “Labour Law is on a mission, intended to uphold human dignity … imprinting … a ‘real humanity’ that is much more than some mere ideological humanism.”1 The urgency of this mission is felt throughout this book. This book is about life in dignity, and the claim made by Dahan, Lerner, and Milman-Sivan is stark: despite the “international declarative consensus on universal labour standards, existing labour laws often do not guarantee life in dignity, even in developed states.”2 And while maybe not sufficient, international labour standards are understood to be a necessary condition for life in dignity.3

Post-Brexit, post-Trump, there could hardly be a more pressing moment to think deeply about how to reimagine the relationship between social justice and the international economic order. The direction of globalization is deeply contested. In many parts of the world, including in the global North, multilateral trade and regional integration initiatives are fundamentally challenged because they appear to leave people and their social well-being behind. If workers in the global South and migrant workers (the South of the global North) face precarious conditions, and worker-consumer-citizens in the global North fear that they bear the social and economic risks of markets individually, then the case for why they should support deepened global integration becomes particularly challenging—yet essential—to articulate.

The introduction and several other chapters in this collection invoke one of the most significant factory fires of our time: Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza disaster, in which 1,134 people lost their lives and thousands more were injured. It is far from the only factory fire that has occurred in the region, and factory fires continue to happen in global production chains worldwide, but its enormity coupled with the mediatized images of brand-name clothing on the wrecked factory floors alongside the bodies of trapped women workers spoke at once to a very specific form of social connection theorized by the editors of this book—labour connection—and to legal responsibility. [End Page 281]

Several chapters offer fine-grained assessments of the economic and to some extent organizational behaviour literatures, through which we might understand labour connection and legal responsibility under contemporary globalization. Labour connection and legal responsibility touch “the very organizational structure and strategy of individual firms, thanks to the increasingly easier movement of financial capital, technology, and information.”4 Miriam Ronzoni and the other contributors to this edited volume remind the reader of the challenge of tracking responsibility for a range of abuses of power in labour law and labour relations, globally. In their recognition of the micro-web of responsibilities that support or enable the macro, the authors acknowledge the anachronistic manner in which we understand the employer– employee relationship if our focus is remedial responsibility. This traditional understanding obscures a theory of justice that allows us to see the thick web of labour connections and allows us to express who should be responsible, morally and legally.

Alive to the inadequacies of the current labour governance framework, they set out to frame labour connection and legal responsibility through new intellectual, analytical tools. Namely, Dahan, Lerner, and Milman-Sivan apply principles of justice—via relational theory—to the largely empirical field of global labour. Their core insight is that “principles of distributive justice cannot be formulated or justified independently of the practice they regulate.”5 A new legal (and political) concept of shared responsibility is needed, which requires us to rethink transnational governance specifically as it relates to labour, globally. Their framework for responsibility is situated not as an alternative to, but rather within, open market economies; global justice is a question for labour law. In other words, Dahan, Lerner, and Milman-Sivan’s framework is a transnational labour law (TLL) project, part of the process of understanding...


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pp. 281-289
Launched on MUSE
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