Political Science ETDs

Publication Date



This dissertation examines whether the incorporation of labor rights provisions into trade agreements promotes labor rights enforcement in developing countries. It draws on the international relations literature on transnational advocacy as the starting point to ask how labors allies engage the trade mechanisms as potential tools for promoting labor rights in supranational arenas. Using original data, field observation, primary documents and interviews with key participants, I examine how transnational labor rights advocates have engaged these institutions through a research design that pairs quantitative analysis of the NAFTA labor side agreement, with qualitative examination of a number of the NAFTA cases and a set of labor violations cases in Puebla, Mexico. The empirical chapters discuss the ways that transnational labor rights advocates engage the labor rights enforcement mechanism as they attempt to secure a review of their petitions from the quasi-judicial bodies charged with investigating labor rights compliance. Transnational support has led to outcomes for labor that include firm-level redress of labor rights violations and institutional changes within Mexico. The implication for this work is that where labor clauses have had an effect on labor rights practices within states, it has been at the intersection of transnational civil society and international institutions. The research suggests that the process of engaging the petitions mechanism can persuade or coerce states into enforcing labor rights commitments, and emphasizes that transnational advocacy provides a crucial element to realizing labor rights enforcement where domestic efforts are weak.

Degree Name

Political Science

Level of Degree


Department Name

Political Science

First Committee Member (Chair)

Schrank, Andrew

Second Committee Member

Hochstetler, Kathryn

Project Sponsors

Mexico-North Research Network




Foreign trade and employment--Mexico, Employee rights--Mexico, Abuse of rights--Mexico, Free trade--Mexico, Labor policy--Mexico, Canada--Treaties, etc.--1992 Oct. 7

Document Type