Worker education's responses to globalization: international experts speak
Salt, Benjamin Peter Brodigan
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The purpose of this study is to investigate worker education programs' responses to globalization. The research questions underpinning this study were: 1) how are worker education programs addressing globalization, and 2) what are the factors enabling and constraining their response to globalization?|The data for this study came from organizational literature and semi-structured, open-ended interviews with 20 experts on workers' education. This study investigated nine programs in the US, four in Europe, and five from the Global South.|Educational responses to globalization supported both the "technical/professional" and the "consciousness-raising activist" models of workers' education. Using Johns's (1998) article on levels of international union solidarity, I was able to range the programs from accomodatory to transformatory. The experts' stance to globalization and relation to (transnational corporation) (TNC) management was key to determining the nature of their programs' responses to the TNC-led global economy. An indepth study of UAW-GM's Paid Educational Leave (PEL) illustrated the shortcomings in joint union-management education programs. The International Study Circles of the International Federation of Workers' Education Associations provided a radically different approach to PEL which bolstered the claim of experts that workers' education may be on the verge of a "golden age."|The five factors enabling the programs' response to globalization were the commitment and caliber of the staff, technological advances, political changes, particularly the end of the Cold War, a shift in consciousness to accepting that the geo-economic has replaced the geo-political, and the continued leadership of Scandinavia.|The six factors working against the effectiveness of the programs were insufficient funding, the lack of union-university cooperation, low union density, complacency or conservatism of unionists, the disunified union response to TNCs, and a failure to reach the grassroots.|The first conclusion is that the constraining factors outweigh the enabling ones, so that unions are still not able to seriously challenge TNCs. The second conclusion is that workers' education may indeed be on the verge of a golden age.