Recent accounts of transnational activism have examined a variety of social movement organizations (SMOs) but have paid little attention to labor transnationalism. This article utilizes and adapts this new transnational social movements scholarship to understand contemporary labor activism in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) countries. Exploring the preexisting networks and intramovement cleavages that helped spawn labor opposition to NAFTA, it focuses on labor activists' complaints under the treaty's labor side accord. I explore how rising political opportunities associated with the treaty and its new institutions created new political arenas, targets for activists, and incentives for cross-border collaboration. The cross-border political exchanges that formed part of labor activists' strategies to utilize these new institutions helped activists create new movement frames, transnational identities, and coalitions. While these outcomes support the findings of literature on transnational SMOs, they point to the particular dilemmas labor activists faced in confronting these issues due to their vulnerability, the status of unions as formal organizations embedded in national institutional structures, and the difficulty of imagining policies and strategies that might be effective in this new transnational sphere.


This is the author's final version of an article published in Social Science History, the publisher's version can be found at http://ssh.dukejournals.org/content/27/4/577.refs

Original Citation: Stillerman, Joel. "Transnational Activist Networks and the Emergence of Labor Internationalism in the NAFTA Countries." Social Science History 27, no. 4 (2003): 577-601.

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