Indonesia Inquiry

Labor Interest Groups and Unions in Indonesia (Annotated Bibliography)

March 28, 2016 Annotated Bibliographies Data Research Resources 0


Labor Interest Groups and Unions in Indonesia (Annotated Bibliography)

Compiled by: Shannay Baradaran

Directed Individual Study, Spring 2016

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

Arnold, Wayne. 2004. “In Indonesia, Unions Hit a Roadblock: Contract Labor.” New York Times (May): W1-W7.

Reports that only six years after being allowed to flourish following the Asian financial crisis, Indonesia’s fledgling labor movement is backfiring on some workers. Example of worker Luluk Setyowati; Result of her work in helping to organize a union at Lengtat Tangerrant Leather outside Jakarta; How Setyowati and others were locked out of their company and lost their jobs as a result of wanting better employee benefits; Role of the International Monetary Fund in the labor rights field; How countries may be competing to reduce worker’s rights; Discussion of experts with opposing views.

Bartley, Tim, Niklas Egels-Zandén. 2015. “Responsibility and Neglect in Global Production Networks: The Uneven Significance of Codes of Conduct in Indonesian Factories.” Global Networks (July): S21-S44.

In response to anti-sweatshop activism, lead firms in global production networks (GPNs) have adopted voluntary corporate social responsibility commitments such as codes of conduct. Scholars have begun to examine whether and how these shape labour conditions at the point of production, but existing research either focuses on a small number of cases or lacks a control group of factories that are not exposed to codes of conduct. In addition, scholars have sometimes suggested that codes of conduct can only influence certain types of factory conditions, or that government labour inspection can accomplish as much or more than codes. These possibilities have rarely been assessed systematically. In this article, we analyse data on 192 electronics, apparel/textile and footwear factories in Indonesia and show how the significance of codes varies across issues. Our findings also suggest that codes and government labour inspection fill different niches, although neither guarantees decent factory conditions. The findings have implications for the study of ‘labour agency’ and the ‘complementarity’ of public and private governance in GPNs.

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The models in Table 3 reveal that health and safety structures and practices are quite different in factories that are subject to codes of conduct. The binary logistic regression in model 1 shows that health and safety oversight committees are far more likely to exist in factories subject to codes than in either domestic producers or other exporters. In model 2, we find that fire safety is more likely to be rated as adequate when factories are subject to codes of conduct. In addition, model 3 finds that factories subject to codes of conduct on average have fewer reported problems with workplace health and safety. (S36)

Bartley, Tim, and Curtis Child. 2014. “Shaming the Corporation: The Social Production of Targets and the Anti-Sweatshop Movement.” American Sociological Review (August): 653-679.

As social movements co-evolve with changes in states and markets, it is crucial to examine how they make particular kinds of actors into focal points for the expression of grievances and the demand for rights. But researchers often bracket the question of why some kinds of organizations are more likely than others to become targets of social movement pressure. We theorize the “social production of targets” by social movements, rejecting a simple “reflection” model to focus on configurations of power and vulnerability that shape repertoires of contention. Empirically, we extend structural accounts of global commodity chains and cultural accounts of markets to analyze the production of targets in the case of the anti-sweatshop movement of the 1990s. Using a longitudinal, firm-level dataset and unique data on anti-sweatshop activism, we identify factors that attracted social movement pressure to particular companies. Firms’ power and positions strongly shaped their likelihood of becoming targets of anti-sweatshop activism. But the likelihood of being a target also depended on the cultural organization of markets, which made some firms more “shamable” than others. Contrary to suggestions of an anti-globalization backlash, globalization on its own, and related predictions about protectionism, cannot explain the pattern of activism.

Beers, Steve. 2013. “Thinking Globally, Framing Locally: International Discourses and Labor Organizing in Indonesia.” Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies / Österreichische Zeitschrift für Südostasienwissenschaften (June):    120-139.

In the final decade of the New Order regime, Indonesian labor activists turned to international organizations as a key ally in the dangerous work of challenging the state-controlled labor regime. As the political context has become more open, international organizations have continued to play an important role in the labor movement. This paper examines the changing role of transnational labor activism in democratic Indonesia. First, the paper describes the emergence of the discourse of global labor rights in response to the challenges of globalization. It then sketches the historical relationship between the Indonesian state, the labor movement, and international activists. Finally, the paper examines an internationally supported union organizing campaign. Drawing upon the literature on discursive framing, the case suggests that while internationally circulating, rights-based discourses remain an important resource for domestic activists, such discourses must be translated and modified for the local political context.

Bellman, Eric, Linda Silaen, and I Made Sentana. 2012. “Wage Protests Complicate Indonesia’s Growth Blueprint.” Wall Street Journal- Eastern Edition (November): 7.

The article discusses public demonstrations and protests in support of higher wages in Indonesia by labor groups in of November 2012, with a focus on spending for infrastructure projects; the minimum wage in Indonesia; and speculation that wage increases could cause inflation.

Caraway, Teri L. “Democratic Transition, Economic Crisis, and Labor Reform in Indonesia.” American Political Science Association: 1-37.

Although a series of labor law reforms that strengthened basic labor rights were passed in Indonesia soon after the fall of Suharto, attempts to pass comprehensive reforms affecting issues related to labor flexibility have for the most part failed. While labor has secured stronger political rights, employers have been unable to roll back the majority of provisions that defend labor protection. Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the politics of labor reform is that while labor played little role in bringing down Suharto and is still quite weak and fragmented, it managed to secure many gains in labor law. I argue that labor success in the immediate post-Suharto years can be explained by international pressure to restore basic labor rights and the early remobilization of labor, in contrast to employers, in the wake of the Asian financial crisis. Although unions were weak they managed to organize large and disruptive protests whenever changes that promised to increase flexibility were enacted. In contrast, employers were caught off-guard and showed few signs of acting as a coherent interest group. By the end of 2000, however, employers had counter-mobilized, and they made rolling back some of these early gains for workers a primary goal. This reactivation of the peak business association boded poorly for labor. However, the strenuous opposition of both employers and unions to two draft bills in the latter half of 2002 led the committee overseeing the bills in the legislature to institute a bipartite process to revise them, and both business and many unions chose to participate in this process. This bipartite structure of negotiations leveled the playing field between unions and employers, and labor was thus able to defend its political gains, while employers were only partially successful in achieving their goal of increased labor flexibility.

Caraway, Teri L., Michele Ford, and Hari Nugroho. 2015. “Translating Membership into Power at the Ballot Box? Trade Union Candidates and Worker Voting Patterns in Indonesia’s National Elections.” Democratization (December): 1296-1316.

This article analyses the effectiveness of trade unions’ electoral engagement in the union-dense electoral localities of Bekasi and Tangerang in Indonesia’s 2009 legislative elections. Our analysis reveals that legacies of authoritarianism, electoral rules, and union fragmentation pushed unions to pursue an ineffective electoral strategy of running union cadres on various party tickets. In Bekasi, local leaders within the Federation of Indonesian Metalworkers Unions (FSPMI) chose not to mobilize resources to support union candidates because the union’s national leadership had failed to convince them of the soundness of its strategy. In Tangerang, local leaders embraced the National Workers Union’s (SPN) national electoral strategy, but had inadequate membership data to conduct electoral mapping and did not provide candidates with financial and leadership support. Neither union, meanwhile, gave much consideration to the problem of translating membership to votes: survey data reveal that most members could not name union candidates, and many of those who could did not vote for them. The article argues that, despite its flaws, trade unions’ strategy of engagement in the electoral arena constitutes an important step forward in the consolidation of Indonesia’s democracy.

Caraway, Teri L. 2008. “Explaining the Dominance of Legacy Unions in New Democracies: Comparative Insights from Indonesia” Comparative Political Studies (October): 1371-1397.

The continued dominance of legacy unions—state-backed unions inherited from the previous nondemocratic regime—has received little scholarly scrutiny. Through an analysis of Indonesia, this article presents a focused theoretical framework for analyzing the staying power of legacy unions and the strategies they pursue to maintain their dominance. The author argues that the capacity of legacy unions to survive is a product of inherited advantages (membership, institutional, and legal) and the transition context (economic conditions, union competition, and partisan links). Legacy unions adopt three strategies for survival—carrots, sticks, and reform—and pursue a strategy of reform only when they retain meager inherited advantages and face an unfavorable transition context. The article also offers suggestions for additional research to further develop the theoretical framework.

Caraway, Teri L. 2005. “Can the Leopard Change Its Spots? Legacy Unions in New Democracies.” Conference Papers—American Political Science Association (September): 1-38.

Under Suharto, the state demobilized labor and only permitted one state-backed union, the All-Indonesia Workers Unions (SPSI, Serikat Pekerja Seluruh Indonesia) to exist. Since SPSI was an ineffective advocate for workers, organized only a small percentage of the labor force, showed few signs of reforming, lost much of its financial support from the government, and was shunned by international funders, most labor activists wrote off SPSI following the transition to democracy, surmising that members would abandon SPSI and join new unions in droves. Yet seven years later, SPSI, while not flourishing, remains the largest confederation in Indonesia. I explore the resilience of SPSI as a way to both understand their continued dominance in Indonesia to reflect on the broader theoretical issue of legacy unions. I argue that SPSI has maintained its ascendancy primarily through preventing exit rather than as a result of fundamental reforms. It has been able to prevent exit through collaboration with management, intimidation of opponents, continued government favoritism, and through conceding autonomy to lower levels of the organization. In addition, since few unions have offered dynamic alternatives to SPSI and labor legislation has facilitated the fragmentation of these unions, many SPSI affiliates are not tempted to exit and the new independent unions are divided into dozens of federations and thousands of unaffiliated plant-level unions.

Ford, Michele. 2001. “Challenging the Criteria of Significance: Lessons from Contemporary Indonesian Labour History.” Australian Journal of Politics & History (March): 101-114.

Non-governmental organisations’ (NGOs) dominance of the Indonesian labour movement has been undermined by changes in the regulation of labour since the fall of Suharto. This article examines the effects of these changes on the form and discourse of labour representation in contemporary Indonesia. It is argued that while NGOs’ renewed acceptance of unionism as the primary form of labour organisation demonstrates the strength of the ‘trade union’ as a criterion of significance, their (partial) execution of ‘trade union functions’ during the late New Order period demands that we re-examine the ways in which we perceive and measure organised labour activism.

Gardener, Daisy. 2012. “Workers’ Rights and Corporate Accountability – The Move Towards Practical, Worker-Driven Change for Sportswear Workers in Indonesia.” Gender & Development (March): 49-65.

 Women workers across Asia and throughout the world continue to face long hours, low wages and discrimination when they try to organize into unions within garment and footwear factories. Millions of young women are making products for companies Nike and Adidas. Over the past decade, under considerable public pressure, these companies have developed standards on workers conditions for their supplier factories. Despite this, there is still a considerable gap between sportswear companies’ policies and the actual conditions inside factories. This article explores a process in Indonesia from 2009 to 2011 which brought together Indonesian factories, international sportswear brands and Indonesian unions to develop a protocol in an attempt ensure that workers’ human rights are upheld inside factories. Women union leaders were instrumental in the development of this protocol and will be integral to the implementation of these new guidelines.

Hill, Grant. 1996. “Indonesia: Workers Fight to Join a Union.” Australian Nursing Journal (February): 28-29.

Reports on the efforts of workers in Indonesia to join a labor union. Poor working conditions in Indonesia; Repetitive movement and hazardous work conditions.

Ingleson, John. 2000. “Labour Unions and the Provision of Social Security in Colonial Java.” Asian Studies Review (December): 471-500.

 Presents information on a study which focused on the provision of welfare and social security in labor unions in colonial Java. Early forms of social security; Debate on the place of social welfare activities in the labor movement; Conclusions.

Ingleson, John. 2001. “The Legacy of Colonial Labour Unions in Indonesia.” Australian Journal of Politics & History (March): 85.

This article discusses the legacy of the colonial labour movement in Indonesia under five broad headings; labour unions and the development of political consciousness; labour unions as socio-economic institutions; leaders, followers and the development of worker leadership; organisations and structural legacies; and class, ethnic and religious divisions. For over three decades after the first labour union was created in 1908, union leaders struggled to build organisations that cut across the ethnic, linguistic and social class divisions of Indonesian workplaces. They had limited success. Nevertheless, labour unions did have an important role in increasing workers’ wages, representing their grievances to employers and forcing the colonial government to pressure employers to improve both wages and conditions. They were central to the development of political consciousness, creating opportunities for Indonesians to acquire organisational skills and providing a channel for many to join nationalist political parties. In 1941, on the eve of the Japanese occupation, labour unions were among the strongest Indonesian organisations in the colonial towns and cities. In the aftermath of independence in August 1945 labour unions were quickly re-formed and, freed from many of the restrictions of the colonial states, recruited large numbers of urban workers. The successes and failures of the colonial labour movement were part of the collective memory of many leaders and members, influencing the direction of post-independence activities.

Juliawan, Benny Hari. 2011. “Street-level Politics: Labour Protests in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia.” Journal of Contemporary Asia (August): 349-370.

Over the past ten years, Indonesia has seen an interesting trend in political action on the part of labour. Once risky activity, street protests have been decriminalised and become a common sight in many parts of the country, especially in urban areas. Industrial workers take to the streets in large numbers to challenge the state and business interests perceived as hostile to their material and political interests. Interestingly, scholars have largely neglected this phenomenon and instead focused on labour’s failure to develop as a meaningful political force. This paper assesses the significance of labour protests and the light they throw on the development of a certain mode of engagement with the post-authoritarian state. It is suggested that the proliferation of protests among workers may sow the seeds of a ‘movement society.

Neureiter, Michael. 2013. “Organized Labor and Democratization in Southeast Asia.”      Asian Survey (December): 1063-1086.

This study argues that well organized labor movements and increasing labor mobilization played a crucial role in the democratic transitions in Indonesia in 1998 and the Philippines in 1986. In contrast, the presence of less active and less organized labor unions in Malaysia, Myanmar, and Singapore appears to be an important reason for the durability of authoritarianism in those countries.

O’Rourke, Dara. 2003. “Outsourcing Regulation: Analyzing Nongovernmental Systems of Labor Standards and Monitoring.” The Policy Studies Journal: 1-29.

A range of new nongovernmental systems for advancing labor standards and enforcement have emerged over the last 5 years. This article comparatively assesses these multistake- holder systems of codes of conduct and monitoring, discusses their underlying models of regulation, and proposes a set of criteria for evaluating their effectiveness, including their legitimacy, rigor, accountability, and complementarity. Critical issues are raised about the transparency of existing initiatives, independence of monitors, convergence of standards, and dynamics among nongovernmental regulation, unions, and state enforcement. The article concludes by arguing that with increased transparency, improved technical capac- ities, and new mechanisms of accountability to workers and consumers, nongovernmental monitoring could complement existing state regulatory systems.

Senser, Robert A. 1995. “Indonesia can’t Silence Independent Labor Group.” Christian Science Monitor (April): 18.

Reports the labour movements in Indonesia and the government attempts to suppress it. Fate of the Indonesian Welfare Labour Union (SBSI) leader Muchtar Pakpahan; Other labour activists jailed by the government; Movements around the world for the release of Pakpahan.