Cornell University: Worker-centered policy doesn’t center on all workers

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The United States is leading global efforts to strengthen workers’ voices through a “worker-centered” trade policy, but a new essay by Desirée LeClercq, the Proskauer Employment and Labor Law Assistant Professor at ILR, argues that the policy ignores informal workers and others in precarious positions that are not necessarily protected by unions.

Comparing the new efforts to the emperor has no clothes parable, LeClercq suggests that governments imagine that they have cloaked international economic law in a new “worker-centered” trade policy, but, in reality, their efforts have merely exposed the law’s deficits.

In her paper, “Invisible Workers,” printed in April in the American Journal of International Law as part of its “Symposium on International Economic Law and Its Others,” LeClercq suggests that while everyone is applauding the government’s new policy, there are significant flaws that must be addressed, most notably that worker voice is limited to formal membership in an elite composition of unions.

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