Since 2006, three legal cases have been filed in Europe to establish corporate accountability of European retailers for labour violations in South Asia, within their value chains. The garment sector value chain has come under intense scrutiny and public attention since three large-scale industrial tragedies took place within months of each other in South Asia – the Baldia factory fire in Pakistan and the Tazreen Fashions fire and Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh. The political structures created by these events opened up opportunities for new coalitions to emerge within the anti-sweatshop movement to hold TNCs accountable for rights violations in their supplier and subcontracted factories. Legal groups took on a major role in some of these campaigns, joining hands with conventional anti-sweatshop actors and local partners in South Asia, in part to strengthen the legal frameworks for corporate accountability that had thus far allowed violations like these to continue unchecked, within the sector. The paper attempts to understand the dynamics of coalition building between legal actors and anti-sweatshop campaigns. It does this using a detailed study of the inter- and intra-organisational dynamics within the transnational coalition of actors that came together to hold the German discount retailer, Kik Textilien und Non-Food GmbH accountable for the factory fire in Pakistan. The paper attempts to provide a model for how legal actors can successfully form coalitions with existing anti-sweatshop actors, despite divergent objectives and ideologies. The findings from the case suggest that such coalitions are most effective when legal groups share common discourses with the anti-sweatshop movement, are able to locate the legal strategy being pursued within a larger campaign agenda, and share a common constituency with anti-sweatshop actors. When these conditions are not met, the existence of conflicting agendas and strategies may invite the risk of the campaign failing to achieve its short- or long-term objectives and undermine the movement. The successful inclusion of legal actors within the anti-sweatshop movement, on the other hand, could enable mutually reinforcing hybrid strategies to be employed by campaigns, strengthening the movement.

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Pegler, Lee
Social Policy for Development (SPD)
International Institute of Social Studies

Sethia, Shikha. (2016, December 16). Coalition-Building Among Legal and Non-Legal Actors in the Anti-Sweatshop Movement: A New Hybrid?. Social Policy for Development (SPD). Retrieved from