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Impressively researched. . . . Digests a mountain of literature and follows up with a dazzling compilation of anecdotes and specific local knowledge based on extensive first-person on-the-scenes interviews. . . . Far and away the best single source on worker-rights struggles and issues in the Caribbean Basin. --Mark Hager, Washington College of Law In this remarkably wide-ranging study, the author asks whether trade restrictions stimulate actual labor reform. Taking Caribbean Basin nations as evidence, Frundt evaluates the successes and failures of labor requirements in the United States' Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and Caribbean Basin Initiative. As Frundt demonstrates, GSP conditions have been responsible for limited success in El Salvador, where agreements broke down in formulating and implementing new labor codes. Compliance hardly fared better in Guatemala, although attitudes improved. In Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama, GSP achieved temporal successes, and in the Dominican Republic the trade requirements displayed their greatest effectiveness, resulting in genuine and substantive labor reform. The usefulness of labor-rights trade conditionality as an incentive for respecting worker organizing, bargaining, and living standards has been hotly debated in recent years. Frundt acknowledges the many barriers to labor code enforcement. However, he challenges the widespread notion that conditionality actually inhibits trade and worker benefits by encouraging an informal sector of laborers with little access to legal remedies. Evenhanded and impressively researched, with hundreds of firsthand accounts and a broad synthesis of empirical data, this book is an important contribution to the debate over the value of trade-related requirements and social clauses in securing basic rights for the world's low-income workers. Henry J. Frundt convenes the Latin American program at Ramapo College, New Jersey, and is the author of Refreshing Pauses: Coca-Cola and Human Rights in Guatemala.
While the crisis in Central America is receiving attention from scholars in a variety of disciplines, few works have focused on the role of nongovernment organizations in reducing levels of violence in that region. This remarkable case study examines the resilient struggle by workers at the Guatemala Coca-Cola bottling plant from 1976-1986, and documents why this union was able to survive within a repressed government to become a key factor in stimulating a larger independent labor movement in the country. Scholars of political sociology, labor studies, and the governments and politics of Central America will do well to read this volume.