Organizing Unions in the U.S. with International Framework Agreements: An Exploratory Study

Source: César F. Rosado Marzán, UC Irvine Law Review, Forthcoming, 2013

From the abstract:
Union density continues to decline, while income inequality continues to climb. But while union density falls we have experienced the counterintuitive rise in international framework agreements (“IFAs”), or agreements signed by global union federations (“global unions”) and multinational corporations. IFAs can be construed to contain employer pledges to not put obstacles on workers who want to organize. Can a global employer’s pledge to not oppose workers’ organization facilitate their unionization? In an exploratory fashion, I interviewed union and multi-national firms that signed IFAs to better comprehend how these novel agreements can aid the organization of workers.

The results of this exploratory study show that the organizational inroads vary from nonexistent to very modest, even with the employers’ pledges not to oppose unionization. Economic and political obstacles seem to significantly hinder union organization even when the employers sign IFAs.

The article concludes that even though the organizational results of the cases were not entirely positive, the cases suggest that unions that think creatively and experiment with the IFAs beyond mere neutrality pacts could counter the economic and political roadblocks to unionization. Therefore, the article provides hypotheses for further research to clarify how IFAs can be more effective organizing tools and for unions to experiment with the global agreements.