Digitalization and union agency in Global Value Chains – A retailer case

Authors: Tim Riedler*, Department of Economic and Social Geography, University of Cologne, Martina Fuchs, Department of Economic and Social Geography, University of Cologne
Topics: Economic Geography
Keywords: global value chains, digitalization, retail, union agency, labor geography
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 16
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Digitalization in Global Value Chains has deep impacts on human labor. While the major strand of literature in economic geography perceives digitalization as means of upgrading and global chain governance, this presentation focuses on union agency. Taking a critical view on buyer-driven value chains in retail, with strong lead firms that exercise control over the value creation processes by the bottom end suppliers, this presentation combines GVC-literature, governance-related approaches and approaches of labor control theory in order to suggest a framework about service oriented sections of value creation, namely purchasing departments, administration staff and IT/software solutions in German retail industries, and how trade unions and works councils react on the digitization of labor. By using a qualitative approach, the results show how governance structures are (re-)constructed within the setting of companies’ power relations and institutional settings.

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