Penn State

Consortium forSocial Movements and Education
Research and Practice

Mark Anner

Mark Anner

(814) 865-0745
Mark Anner

Professional Bio

Mark Anner is the founding director of the Center for Global Workers’ Rights and the School’s master’s program in Labor and Global Workers’ Rights, which is a part of the Global Labour University network. He holds a Ph.D. in Government from Cornell University and a master's degree in Latin American Studies from Stanford University. He has researched and written on international labor solidarity, strikes in Vietnam, and anti-sweatshops movements in the global apparel industry. His field research has taken him to El Salvador, Honduras, Brazil, Vietnam, Bangladesh, India, and Guatemala. Before beginning his academic career, he lived in Latin America for eleven years where he worked with labor unions and a labor research center.

Research Interests

Labor Movements, International Labor Solidarity, Garments, Global Supply Chains, Latin America, Asia

Related Materials

Anner, M. (2007). Forging new labor activism in global commodity chains in Latin America. International Labor and Working-Class History72(1), 18-41.

International industrial restructuring has fomented a decline in unionization in Latin America and has forced labor organizations to pursue new forms of activism. Due to the segmentation of the production process and the dispersion of the locations of production sites, the coordination of collective action has become more difficult. At the same time, labor law reforms have failed to respond to the challenges presented by market-oriented industrial reforms. As a result, labor activists are resorting to new or modified forms of labor organizing, ranging from domestic cross-class collaboration to international alliances and sporadic campaigns with labor and nongovernmental organizations. The sources of this variation in new labor actions can be found not only in contemporary political and economic contexts, but also in labor histories and ideational influences. An exploration of labor actions in the Salvadoran export apparel sector and the Brazilian automobile industry illustrates these processes.

Anner, M. (2009). Two logics of labor organizing in the global apparel industry. International Studies Quarterly53(3), 545-570.

What factors account for labor strategies in global industries? While some scholars point to economic factors and others look to political opportunity structures, an examination of union actions in the Central American apparel export industry over a 14-year period suggests that activists’ historical experiences and ideological orientations also strongly influence union dynamics. Left-oriented unions tend to form unions through transnational activism whereas conservative unions most often turn to plant-level cross-class collaboration. Moreover, these two union strategies are interconnected. Successful transnational activism facilitates conservative union formation through a “radical flank” mechanism; the threat of left-union organizing motivates employers to accept unionization by conservative unions to block left unions from gaining influence in the plant. To examine these arguments, this article employs pooled time-series statistical analysis, structured interviews with labor organizers, and process tracing that draws on nine months of field research in Honduras and El Salvador.

Our Research

Briscoe, F., Gupta, A., & Anner, M. S. (2015). Social activism and practice diffusion: How activist tactics affect non-targeted organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly60(2), 300-332.

This paper examines how social activist tactics affect the diffusion of social-responsibility practices. Studying collegiate adoptions of a controversial supplier-sanction practice championed by anti-sweatshop activists, we compare how non-targeted organizations are influenced by different types of practice adoptions in their environment. Drawing on interorganizational learning theory, we argue and show that disruption-linked adoptions—those that occur following activists’ disruptive protests against the adopting organization—appear to be taken under coercive pressure and therefore provide non-targeted organizations with poor inferences about the merits of the practice. In contrast, strong inferences are provided by evidence-linked adoptions—those that occur after activists use evidence-based tactics with the adopting organization—and by independent adoptions occurring without any activism. Hence the contagious effect of independent and evidence-based adoptions is greater than that of disruption-linked adoptions. We further explore differences in receptivity to contagious influence, proposing that features of an organization and its proximal environment that increase issue salience also increase susceptibility to diffusion. Our findings demonstrate the importance of including non-targeted organizations in research on social movements and corporate social responsibility. They also offer a new vantage for interorganizational diffusion research, based on how activists and other third parties shape organizational decision makers’ inferences.

Anner, M. (2015). Worker resistance in global supply chains: Wildcat strikes, international accords and transnational campaigns. International Journal of Labour Research7(1/2), 17.

This article examines the relationship between labour control regimes and patterns of worker resistance in apparel global supply chains. Concentration of the geographical locations of apparel production in the last decade has as much to do with labour control regimes as with wages and other economic factors. There are three main labour control regimes in the sector: state-party control; market despotism; and repressive employer control. The article then argues that these systems of labour control are conducive to three patterns of worker resistance: wildcat strikes, international accords and transnational corporate campaigns. The article explores these arguments by examining the struggles of apparel workers in Viet Nam, Bangladesh and Honduras.



Michael Fichter, Mark Anner, Frank Hoffer, Christoph Scherrer
Our Research
The Global Labour University (GLU), now 10 years old, is a network of interdisciplinary faculties that offer master level courses and other training programs for trade unionists from around the world. The main purpose of these programs is to enable trade unionists to develop policy expertise for the challenges of globalization. In this article we offer a critical assessment of the activities of the GLU. To what extent does the GLU achieve its objective of building capacity for a critical engagement with policy issues arising from globalization? And to what extent does the international composition of the Masters programs and the ensuing alumni work actually strengthen solidarity among trade unionists across national borders? What we find is that the GLU provides one important approach for addressing these challenges. By helping prepare labor unions of the future with the theoretical understandings and analytical and research skills they need, the GLU contributes to the global labor movement a new generation of labor activists. Our answers to these questions are based on participatory observations, interviews with a wide range of stakeholders and several external evaluation reports.

Anner, M. S. (2011). Solidarity Transformed. In Solidarity Transformed. Cornell University Press.

Mark S. Anner spent ten years working with labor unions in Latin America and returned to conduct eighteen months of field research: he found himself in the middle of violent raids, was detained and interrogated in a Salvadoran basement prison cell, and survived a bombing in a union cafeteria. This experience as a participant observer informs and enlivens Solidarity Transformed, an illustrative, nuanced, and insightful account of how labor unions in Latin America are developing new strategies to defend the interests of the workers they represent in dynamic global and local contexts. Anner combines in-depth case studies of the auto and apparel industries in El Salvador, Honduras, Brazil, and Argentina with survey analysis. Altogether, he documents approximately seventy labor campaigns—both successful and failed—over a period of twenty years.

Anner finds that four labor strategies have dominated labor campaigns in recent years: transnational activist campaigns; transnational labor networks; radical flank mechanisms; and microcorporatist worker-employer pacts. The choice of which strategy to pursue is shaped by the structure of global supply chains, access to the domestic political process, and labor identities. Anner's multifaceted approach is both rich in anecdote and supported by quantitative research. The result is a book in which labor activists find new and creative ways to support their members and protect their organizations in the midst of political change, global restructuring, and economic crises.

This article seeks to examine two inter-related dynamics, the relationship between the international dispersion of apparel production and labor control regimes, and the relationship between labor control regimes and patterns of worker resistance. The article argues that where apparel production has concentrated in the last decade has as much to do with labor control regimes as with wages and other economic factors. It suggests that there are three main labor control regimes in the sector: state control, market despotism, and employer repression. The article then argues that these systems of labor control are conducive to three patterns of worker resistance: wildcat strikes, international accords, and cross-border campaigns. The article explores these arguments by examining examples of apparel global supply chains in Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Honduras.