Civil Society Activism under US Free Trade Agreements: The Effects of Actorness on Decent Work

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Civil Society Activism under US Free Trade Agreements: The Effects of Actorness on Decent Work


  • Myriam Oehri Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein to the United Nations, USA


Abstract  US free trade agreements comprise unique provisions that enable civil society to present public complaints against labor rights violations occurring in the US or its trade partners. To date, a variety of complainants have used these mechanisms, including (inter)national trade unions, human rights organizations, and a priest. And yet, little is known about the submissions’ nature of agency and the effects it has on the procedural continuations to address illicit labor practices. To fill this research lacuna, this article employs a multidisciplinary framework of ‘actorness’ that measures the submitters’ diversity (professionalism/non-professionalism, collectivism/individualism, transnationalism/nationalism) and their effectiveness (rejection/acceptance of submissions and further procedural follow-ups). Combining quantitative examination with in-depth analysis of two diverse cases of actorness, and drawing on expert interviews, public reports, and minutes of meetings, the study reveals that the majority of public submissions were of professional, collective, and transnational nature. However, contrary to what extant literature suggests, this is not a guarantee that they achieve more far-reaching procedural steps in the protection of workers. Non-professional, individual, and national actorness can compensate for the advantages of professionalism, collectivism, and transnationalism.


Keywords  civil society; decent work; free trade agreements; labor standards; public complaints


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/pag.v5i4.1085


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