Transnational Networks of Local Workers’ Representatives. A Participatory Pilot Study

A fundamental power asymmetry can be identified in the global M+E industry: While OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) in particular dominate global value chains across national borders, transnational action competencies of local workers’ representatives are usually only weakly developed (Ludwig & Simon 2019). Collective employee representation bodies appear to be ill-prepared for the further differentiation of global value chains – even though workers in the M+E industry are under great pressure in view of particularly high substitution and outsourcing potentials. Nevertheless, innovative – and so far largely unexplored (Simon 2021) – approaches to transnational networking of local workers’ interest groups in the globalized M+E industry can be identified in recent times. One such approach – the NWI of IG Metall – is to be accompanied in the pilot project by participant observation.


The specific questions guiding the case studies are:

1. what are the effects of the global transformation of the M+E industry in the local contexts of the case studies? What are the employment structures of the transnational/local value chains? What strategies are the actors pursuing to shape the transformation?

2. What are the approaches, potentials and challenges for transnational networking of company actors? To what extent do they differ in a transnational comparison?

3. What is the significance of local, regional, national, and global employee representatives (trade unions, works councils, others) in the respective cooperation projects? What differences can be identified in the transnational comparison in the cooperation projects studied (formal to institutional: e.g. EWCs, global framework agreements; or ‘only’ informal exchange of information)?


Research Methods

Following on from relevant preliminary work by the project leader (Ludwig/Simon, 2017, 2019; Simon 2021), the pilot study is primarily designed as participatory-observational research. In order to apply this method, the project team will intensively accompany the NWI located in the Head Quarters of the IG Metall in Frankfurt, creating 2–3 case studies (Morocco; Mexico; South Africa).

Project director:
A Gap between Social and Ecological Rights: A Commentary after One Year of the German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act | 2024

Hafner, Lillie / Simon, Hendrik (2024): A Gap between Social and Ecological Rights: A Commentary after One Year of the German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act, PRIF Blog, 4.4.2024.

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Islands of Trust in a Sea of Locational Competition | 2023

Simon, Hendrik (2023): Islands of Trust in a Sea of Locational Competition. Towards Transnational Solidarity in Corporation-based Workers Networks, in: Journal of Political Sociology, Special Issue on Solidarity in Global Value Chains.

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Networks of Solidarity and Trust | 2022

Simon, Hendrik (2022): Networks of Solidarity and Trust, Living Sociology, 26.4.2022.

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„United and Stronger Together“ | 2021

Simon, Hendrik (2021): „United and Stronger Together“. Transnationale gewerkschaftliche Organisierung in multinationalen Konzernen am Beispiel der IG Metall-Netzwerkinitiative, in: Industrielle Beziehungen, 28:2, 212–221,

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Solidarität statt Standortkonkurrenz | 2021

Ludwig, Carmen / Simon, Hendrik (2021): Solidarität statt Standortkonkurrenz. Transnationale Gewerkschaftspolitik entlang der globalen Automobil-Wertschöpfungskette, in: Ludwig, Carmen/Simon, Hendrik/Wagner, Alexander (Hg.), Entgrenzte Arbeit, (un)begrenzte Solidarität? Bedingungen und Strategien gewerkschaftlichen Handelns im flexiblen Kapitalismus, Münster: Verlag Westphälisches Dampfboot, 226–240.

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Kapitalismus kennt keine Schamgrenzen | 2019

Simon, Hendrik (2019): Kapitalismus kennt keine Schamgrenzen. Ein Gespräch mit Jochen Schroth über globale Unternehmensstrategien und gewerkschaftliche Handlungsoptionen, 1.12.2019.

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