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Putting corporate codes of conduct regarding labor standards in a global-national-local context : a case study of Reebok's athletic footwear supplier factory in China

Authors Yu, Xiaomin
Issue Date 2006
Summary This thesis examines the dynamics, possibilities and limitations of corporate codes of conduct - one kind of private regulation tool regarding labor practices flourishing in the past decade's escalating anti-sweatshop campaigns and corporate social responsibility movement - in improving China's labor standards under global-national-local context. Concentrating on athletic footwear industry, this thesis explores the emergence, development and implementation of labor-related codes of conduct through a case study of CSR discourses and practices of Reebok - a leading branded company enjoying a high-profiled image for its human rights achievement - in a large Taiwanese-invested footwear factory (anonymously referred as FS) which is located in Fuzhou city, Fujian province, China and produces for Reebok. I found the implementation of Reebok labor-related codes at workplace of FS had paradoxical effects on improving labor standards - although codes implementation resulted in a 'race to ethical and legal minimum' when the most inhumane and obviously illegal sweatshop labor abuses were curbed, Chinese workers of FS were forced to work harder, faster but earn less payment and the employee-elected trade union installed in FS worked more like a 'company union' rather than an autonomous workers' organization representing worker' interests. Furthermore, to explain the limited effectiveness of codes in improving labor standards, especially on issues of living wage and workers' rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, I found the result was determined by both interconnected structural prohibiting forces embedded in industrial, international, national and local contexts and negotiated agencies of international labor right advocacy groups, consumers, Reebok, FS management, and local branches of Chinese official trade union.
Note Thesis (Ph.D.)--Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, 2006
Language English
Format Thesis
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