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Contemporary economic globalization, which is driven and regulated primarily by multinational corporations, has a direct impact on workers' lives. Trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) tend to be controlled by corporate interests in the wealthy, industrialized nations. Those countries set the agenda to protect the interests of foreign investors and facilitate the mobility of capital, but they do little to protect the interests of labor. In response, workers in both the global North and South have been forced to rely on their own individual efforts to protect themselves against unfair labor practices. This article presents an in-depth analysis of a successful worker strike against New Era Cap Company in upstate New York. The research builds on interviews with union leaders, directors of nongovernmental organizations and other community groups, and high school and college students who participated in the struggle. The author situates this analysis within a social movement framework to identify how power dynamics in the contemporary global economic system can be contested at the local level. The changing social structures produced by economic globalization experience a convergence of theories that explain both “old” and “new” social movements.


This article was originally published in Sociological Perspectives, volume 49, issue 2, in 2006. JSTOR DOI: 10.1525/sop.2006.49.2.239

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University of California Press



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