Justice at Work: Globalization and the Human Rights of Workers

by Robert A. Senser

This is the story of my exploration of how globalization
went wrong and how to fix it. Also, below, you'll find
--What They're Saying about Justice at Work
--The Book's Questions and Answers
--Its Chapter Headings

Justice at Work: Globalization and the Human Rights of Workers grows out of my 50 years of involvement in human rights, including 21 years as a labor attaché in the U.S. foreign service.

Most of its 24 chapters are a narrative of my personal exploration of globalization and its impact on working men and women. The main conclusion I draw is that 21st century globalization must be transformed to serve not only the rights of business and business firms but also to protect the rights of workers and worker organizations.

In the past 17 years my writings, focusing particularly on the human rights of rights of working men and women under globalization, appeared in a variety of publications, including America, American Educator, Commonweal, Christian Science Monitor, Dissent, Far Eastern Economic Review, Freedom Review, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Service Journal, Monthly Labor Review, and U.S. Catholic.

I weave together a selection of those articles (updated) with new writings and excerpts from my Website, now mutated into a Weblog, to develop in detail the case that globalization, chiefly its trade and investment regime, needs mending. I contend that governments, as founders and protectors of that regime, hold the central responsibility for mending it, in consultation with business, labor, and other representative groups in the private sector. The book has examples of the important role that non-governmental groups have in proposing reforms and agitating for them, as student groups have done, and are still doing, in campaigning against sweatshops.

The chapter on"Personal Responsibility," one of the book's longest, rebuts the notion that social responsibility falls exclusively on government or on an abstraction called "society," never on you and me. "But," I write, "personal responsibilities and social responsibilities are intertwined. In fact, correctly understood, social responsibility is a personal responsibility."

It is one we exercise daily, for good or for evil, in our roles as consumers, business people, investors, citizens, workers, government officials, parents, doctors, teachers, and every other occupation, as well as through our participation in institutions for that occupation, such as chambers of commerce, trade unions, and medical societies.

In the context of responsibility, I engage in some personal reflection on the Holocaust. What would I have done if I, the son of an ethnic German-born father, had lived through the Nazi era? My meditation is unsettling, and it may be to you too, especially if you also read the accompanying reflections of Dr. Sherwin Nuland about the criminal cooperation of the German medical profession in the Holocaust.

My Weblog at, explores the same intellectual territory as my book. So it has a double function. It can introduce you to the book. And it supplements the book’s facts and ideas.
Justice at Work: Globalization and the Human Rights of Workers, published by Xlibris, is more quickly available from and

What They’re Saying about Justice at Work

* “…offers practical ways for ethical businessmen and women to avoid becoming agents for the promotion of systemic greed.” – Al Alcazar, editor of Blueprint for Social Justice, Loyola University/New Orleans.

* “A gem of a book…I found so many issues germane to what is happening in Vietnam these days.” -- Nguyen Ngoc Bich, author, editor, translator (A Thousand Years of Vietnam Poetry)

* “Senser writes with great clarity and logic about the rights and dignity of each human being, including working men and women, and the need to recognize those rights in the global economy.” – Father R. W. Timm, C.S.C., professor of moral theology.

* “A convincing counter-argument to a prevailing view that a lack of basic worker rights and child sweatshops are OK because certain countries are still ‘catching up’.” – Sylvia M. Booth in giving the book 5 stars on

* "My students loved this book. Robert Senser vividly presents the perspectives of women, children, and others seriously damaged by economic globalization. And he offers practical ways to expand the global economy while avoiding the worst forms of labor exploitation." – David Cingranelli, professor of political science, Binghamton University.

Questions and Answers

Some questions answered in this book:

Child labor: why do you still find their products in your shopping mall?
Sweatshops: why do they still plague the global production system?
Globalization: how can we get it to serve our needs much more fully?
Free trade: why the growing disenchantment with it, even among economists?
Human rights: how can they be integrated into the global economy?
Multinational corporations: what is their responsibility for worker rights?
Gender discrimination: why must the struggle to abolish it become global?
Corporate social responsibility: is it a movement or a PR gimmick?
Investor rights: how can they be matched with investor responsibilities?
Labor: is it, or is it not, just another “factor” in production?
You: what can you do?

The Book's Chapter Headings

1. Where I’m Coming From
2. On Their Knees
3. The Crime of Child Slavery
4. Discrimination Against Women
5. Anti-Sweatshop Movement
6. Why Pick on Bangladesh?
7. Assessing China
8. Trading in Bias
9. Fading Faith in ‘Free Trade’
10. A Human Face for Globalization
11. Unions Playing Catch Up
12. Global Awakening
13. Global Insights
14. Economics with a Soul
15. Delight of Sunday
16. Marked Failure
17. Correcting a Blind Spot
18. Corporate Social Responsibility
19. Spatulas, Yahoo, Trade, and China
20. Personal Responsibility
21. The Global Compact
22. Business and Human Rights Aren’t Enemies
23. Keeping Up with the 21st Century
24. Globalization and Us