Will Count towards the RBS - Supply Chain Management & Marketing Sciences Major and Minor
On April 24, 2013 over 1100 Bangladeshi garment workers were killed, and scores more injured when the building in which they were working collapsed. While their employers were Bangladeshi-owned contractors, the buyers of these garments were American and European retailing companies, and ultimately consumers like you and me. This was not a unique event. Every day, many millions of people produce goods and services for the global economy in extremely poor working conditions, largely hidden from public view and scrutiny.
In this course we will learn about the workers are that fuel the global economy and make the things that we use and consume, such as clothing, computers, and coffee. We will examine how globalization has changed the nature of work and given rise to new forms of labor governance. We will ask what ethical and/or legal responsibilities do transnational corporations and consumers have to ensure that labor rights are respected in global supply chains? What are the existing national and international institutions that can address labor rights and standards? How are systems of sourcing and production structured such that they lead to labor rights abuses, and what can be done to change them? How do we balance the economic benefits of job creation with poor working conditions?
We will also pay special attention to the relationships, both real and imagined, between consumers and producers. For example, to what extent and why do consumers care about the working conditions of workers who make the products that they buy? Can there be strong bonds and relationships forged between consumers and producers? Can these bonds lead to new forms of democracy that span traditional political boundaries?
To explore these issues, we will draw on theoretical, empirical, and popular written works as well as other media, and study several industries including garments, electronics, and food.
KEVIN KOLBEN is Associate Professor at Rutgers Business School in the Department of Supply Chain Management. A lawyer, his has written extensively about transnational labor regulation and labor governance in global supply chains. Prior to joining the faculty at Rutgers he worked at the human rights organization, Human Rights First, and he is currently an appointee to the governmental National Advisory Committee for Labor Provision of U.S. Free Trade Agreements. He is currently working on a book length project entitled, The Chains the Bind: Work and Labor in the Global Economy.