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Gale Raj-Reichert

Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin

Gale Raj-Reichert is Research Fellow at Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB) and the Principal Investigator of the DFG funded project ‘Labour governance in global production networks: Assessing labour standards in a new generation of public procurement legislation and trade agreements linked to market access into the European Union’ (LG-GPN). The project, which is in cooperation with researchers at the University of Vienna and the Technical University of Vienna, assesses in what ways socially responsible public procurement and labour standards in trade agreements in the EU improve labour governance in the electronics and clothing industries in Vietnam. Gale is currently on secondment from Queen Mary University of London School of Geography where she is a Lecturer in Economic Geography.
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publication
Exercising associational and networked power through the use of digital technology by workers in global value chains

While there are heated debates about how digitalization affects production, management and consumption in the context of global value chains, less attention is paid to how workers use digital technologies to organize and formulate demands and hence exercise power. This paper explores how workers in supplier factories in global value chains use different digital tools to exercise and enhance their power resources to improve working conditions. Combining the global value chain framework and concepts from labour sociology on worker power, the paper uses examples from the garment industry in Honduras and the footwear industry in China to show how workers used old and new digital tools to create and enhance associational and networked powers. Digital tools were used by workers and their allies in the global value chain to lower costs of communication, increase information exchange and participate in transnational campaigns during labour struggles vis-à-vis firms and governments in structurally and politically repressive environments. The paper contributes to our understanding of how workers use of digital technologies to exercise and combine different resources of power in online and offline actions in global value chains, as well as how they are confronted by new dimensions of constrains which include digital surveillance and control by the state.

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publication
Socially responsible public procurement by the city and districts of Berlin: protecting workers in global supply chains

Workers in factories of global supply chains in the global South producing goods governments purchase often face poor working conditions. A governance tool to improve the situation is socially responsible public procurement. We assess this potential vis-à-vis the newly revised public procurement law in Berlin. While challenges include limited knowledge, resources and fragmented purchasing, there are opportunities for ensuring social criteria in procurement contracts of goods at risk of violating international labour standards and for fair trade, and through pooled procurement.

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publication
Handbook on Global Value Chains

Global value chains (GVCs) are a key feature of the global economy in the 21st century. They show how international investment and trade create cross-border production networks that link countries, firms and workers around the globe. This Handbook describes how GVCs arise and vary across industries and countries, and how they have evolved over time in response to economic and political forces. With chapters written by leading interdisciplinary scholars, the Handbook unpacks the key concepts of GVC governance and upgrading, and explores policy implications for advanced and developing economies alike.

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publication
Global Value Chains, Contract Manufacturers, and the Middle-Income Trap: The Electronics Industry in Malaysia

The electronics industry has been a cornerstone to the successful industrialisation process in Malaysia since the 1970s. However, since the 2000s the industry, which is deeply integrated in global value chains, has failed to upgrade. Its stagnation is indicative of the general economic situation in Malaysia which has contributed to its middle-income trap. This paper argues two key factors combined have led to the electronics industry’s inability to upgrade within the global value chain. First is Malaysia’s excessive reliance on foreign investment which has contributed to a prolonged dominance of foreign firms, particularly large transnational contract manufacturers, which have maintained low-value-added production in the country. Second is the influx of low-skilled and low-waged foreign workers, which has contributed to trapping the industry in labour-intensive lower rungs of the value chain.

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publication
The powers of a social auditor in a global production network: the case of Verité and the exposure of forced labour in the electronics industry

Research on labour governance actors in global production networks (GPNs) has been limited to civil society organisations, firms and governments. Understanding the influence of actors in GPNs has been dealt with singular and overt modes of relational power. This paper contributes to both debates by examining an intermediary actor—the social auditing organisation Verité—and its exercise of multiple modes of overt and covert powers to illustrate the complex terrain of change in GPNs. Verité, whose exposure of forced labour in Malaysian electronics subsequently changed labour governance practices in the electronics industry, mobilised power resources of credible information to exercise powers of expert authority and acts of dissimulation across various networked relationships in the GPN. This paper puts forth a multi-power framework of analysis to understand the micro-politics of GPNs.

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