Reverse Subsidies: Gender, Labour, and Environmental Injustice in Garment Value Chains, Cambridge University Press, 2022
How do lead firms on fast fashion supply chains cut costs by exploiting women workers and the environment? How does the structure of global value chains in contemporary capitalism facilitate these injustices? How does an understanding of reverse subsidies help us to challenge supply chain exploitation? How can we transform this system?
I am extremely excited to share our new book – Reverse Subsidies in Global Monopsony Capitalism: Gender, Labour, and Environmental Injustice in Garment Value Chains. Based on five years of field work, we use the concept of reverse subsidies to explain the purchase of gendered labour and environmental services by lead firms in garment value chains below their costs of production. The resulting higher profits from the low prices of garments are captured by global fashion brands, using their monopsony position, with few buyers and myriad sellers in the market. On the basis of this research, we link the concept of reverse subsidies with those of injustice, inequality, and sustainability in global production.
Shikha Silliman Bhattacharjee, “Bitter Harvest: Supply Chain Oppression and Legal Exclusion of Agricultural Workers,” U. Ill. L. Rev. (expected Summer 2023).
Persistent exploitation of farmworkers is a defining problem of our time. An estimated 32 percent of the global population is employed in agriculture. At the base of global food systems, agricultural workers sustain the world’s population while systematically excluded from labor rights protections. Through an analysis of restrictions on labor rights for agricultural workers in 110 countries, this article distills a typology of legal exclusion that persists to date across the globe. These exclusions articulate with labor exploitation at the base of agri-food supply chains, and economic and social hierarchies constructed by race, caste, indigeneity, gender, and migration status. How can we upend this legal architecture of oppression, rooted in racialized and gendered capitalism? The global understanding advanced in this article is critical to dismantling legal architectures of oppression. At the national level, it provides a framework for identifying and addressing layered mechanisms of legal exclusion in their own jurisdictions.
Moreover, since agricultural supply chains operate globally, it provides importance guidance for protecting workers rights on agri-food supply chains, including through binding due diligence legislation in headquarter economies of lead firms, enforceable brand agreements, and inclusion of labor rights in food safety and environmental standards. Finally, due to the structure of monopsony capitalism, in order to raise the floor for agricultural workers worldwide, legal exclusions must be ratcheted up across jurisdictions. Global analysis, then, provides a roadmap for strengthening international standards and global campaigns.
Shikha Silliman Bhattacharjee, “Regulating Recruitment: Migration, criminalization, and compounded informality,” U. PA. Asian L. Rev. (expected 2022).
Across the globe, migrant workers are increasingly concentrated in temporary employment – including contract, short-term, and contingent work. These short-term employment stints require them to find new work on a regular and ongoing basis. How can legal frameworks encourage recruitment practices that protect the interests of both workers and employers in informal markets? My answer to this question is rooted in empirical investigation of how migrant women in India move between temporary jobs in garment and domestic work. It is based on 254 interviews and 63 focus group discussions with migrant women and recruitment intermediaries across five states. This case selection facilitates analysis of recruitment pathways in context of extremely high levels of informality, and draws together insights from deregulated industrial and unregulated domestic work. By focusing on the experiences of migrant women from Scheduled Castes and Tribes, I direct attention to how gender and social identity articulate with labor market conditions and labor supply chains.
Grounded in this empirical study, I argue that regulatory approaches that selectively regulate labor recruitment by criminalizing traffickers misunderstand the critical functions many recruitment intermediaries play in matching workers to employers in high-turnover labor contexts. Laws and policies that criminalize trafficking without protecting the legitimate functions of recruitment intermediaries provide incentives for recruitment actors to side-step regulation. At the nexus of informal workplaces and informal recruitment practices, migrant women workers are outside the boundaries of legal protection during migration and employment. In short, criminalization compounds informality, exposing workers to further labor exploitation and violence. Accordingly, this article calls for legal approaches that regulate the full spectrum of recruitment intermediaries, incentivize registration, and promote transparent, accountable, and predictable recruitment practices.
Shikha Silliman Bhattacharjee, “Migrant Labor Supply Chains: Architectures of Mobile Assemblages,” Social and Legal Studies, 1-22 (2022).
This paper explores the potential for Assemblage Theory to supplement current approaches to studying labor migration in law and the social sciences. Based upon a study of women’s migration for garment and domestic work in India, I lay out the labor supply chain assemblage (LSCA) as a framework for understanding how workers find employment across multi-site, dynamic trajectories. Migration into temporary employment requires workers to move between jobs on an ongoing basis. Accordingly, studying labor supply chains as fluid assemblages defined by labor market conditions, component elements, and various agents provides a methodology for analyzing frequent job searches, across recruitment geographies, that include a range of recruitment actors. By accommodating temporal, territorial, and relational analysis, this approach provides insight into how labor migration processes for migrant garment and domestic workers in India articulate with the development of markets, working conditions, and social hierarchies – including on the basis of gender and caste.
Colorado Virtual Courthouse (interactive training for self-represented litigants), 2022 (with Colorado Legal Services, Legal Services Corporation, NuLawLab, HELM Studio).
The Colorado Virtual Courthouse is a guided, 360-degree virtual tour of a Colorado courthouse, designed to help Self Represented Litigants (SRLS) navigate court and improve access to justice. It introduces key court staff, explains common court procedures, and provides resources and information to promote better legal outcomes for SRLs.
Core to the HELM Studio mission, we center accessibility –across languages (English/Spanish), disabilities, and access to representation. As COVID-19 continues to restrict in person access to legal service organizations, our hope is that this tool makes court less daunting for people in Colorado facing landlord-tenant disagreements, divorce and child custody matters, money/debt cases, and more.
This project is a collaboration between HELM Social Design Studio, Colorado Legal Services, and Northeastern University Law Lab.