International Solidarity or Renewed Trade Union Imperialism? The AFL–CIO and Garment Workers in Bangladesh

TitleInternational Solidarity or Renewed Trade Union Imperialism? The AFL–CIO and Garment Workers in Bangladesh
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsRahman, Zia, and Langford, Tom
JournalWorkingUSA
Volume17
Issue2
Pagination169 - 186
KeywordsAFL-CIO, Bangladesh, gender, readymade garment industry, trade union imperialism, women
Abstract

This article assesses the AFL–CIO's in Bangladesh's readymade garment (RMG) industry over the past two decades, drawing upon documentary sources and in-depth interviews conducted in 2007. Our research indicates that AFL–CIO actions clearly match four of the five characteristics of hegemonic trade union imperialism, including initiating its own organizations that it can directly control instead of working with existing unions; and employing bureaucratic and legalistic methods when pursuing workplace grievances. Nevertheless, while we characterize the AFL–CIO's actions in Bangladesh as renewed trade union imperialism, this thrust has been tempered with reformist achievements. These include path-breaking attention to the development of women workers' leadership skills. We conclude that the labor movement in the RMG industry in Bangladesh will have to find ways to accumulate new resources and credibility and to overcome its historical subservience to the two major Bangladeshi political parties if it is to effectively counter the AFL–CIO's trade union imperialism.