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labor; NAALC; NAFTA; public interest lawyering; transnational advocacy networks


The North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation is studied as both a new type of arena for labor advocacy in North America, as well as a site that has fostered the emergence of new transnational networks of advocates. We locate our discussion in the context both of debates on the emergence and efficacy of 'soft law' in a diverse array of transnational contexts, a nascent literature on the globalization of public interest lawyering (PIL), as well as more long standing debates on transnational advocacy networks (TANS). The article provides an overview of the uses made of the NAALC complaints process between 1994 and 2005. While many of the early cases brought before the NAALC have been well documented, more recently, questions have been raised by some groups about the efficacy of the process. The article provides an in-depth consideration of two recent complaints, the first involving a proposed set of labour law reforms in Mexico, filed in the US NAO, and the second involving the treatment of Mexican H2B (forestry) Visa workers in Idaho, filed in the Mexican NAO. It documents the advocacy networks developed in relation to each of these complaints, and the reasons why these particular networks turned to the NAALC process, notwithstanding the disillusionment expressed by a number of organizations that had filed complaints over the previous decade. While the advocates we spoke with were under no illusions about the likely outcomes of the complaints process itself, they sought to utilize it as a part of a wider range of strategies for publicity and social mobilization around their issues of concern.