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Bargaining for corporate responsibility: The global and the local of framework agreements in the USA

  • Michael Fichter, Dimitris Stevis (a1) and Markus Helfen (a2)


Global Framework Agreements (GFAs) are still a marginal topic in political and academic discourses over global governance and corporate responsibility. In functional terms, GFAs are a commitment to include global labor standards with respect to human resource management as part of this broader turn to CR. But to what extent are these intentions and goals actually realized? Are corporations able and willing to implement GFAs in a joint effort together with the unions across a vastly diverse range of institutional settings and national arrangements? And do GFAs have an influence on core elements of a company's business policy decisions? Drawing on the insights from an interdisciplinary and multinational project, this paper uses four case studies to explore the conditions and variations in GFA implementation in the USA. Although we observe, as have others before us, that key matters of business strategy such as investments, acquisitions, restructuring, or relocation are more centralized than corporate policies on labor relations, we provide some evidence that the implementation of GFAs can be moved forward by a confluence of external actor involvement and of corporate strategies motivated by a desire to streamline HRM practices (that include the goals covered by GFAs in their core business practices). This finding of the influence of external actor voice in implementation processes may also have broader explanatory power with respect to CR initiatives in general. And in theoretical terms it allows us to explore the interplay between macro structural explanations like the Varieties of Capitalism approach, and the strategic “micro-political” explanations. Our study, in fact, suggests a strong need to combine these in a more systematic fashion.


Corresponding author

* Otto Suhr Institute, Free University Berlin, Ihnestr. 21, 14195 Berlin, Germany, Tel.: +49 30 803 2701/Mobile: +49 178 691 5847, Fax: +49 30 80402923, E-mail:


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