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Does it fit? Drawing lessons from differing labor practices

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We are attentive to labor practices in foreign lands but as the quotations above indicate, we are unsure about the lessons to be drawn from these practices. Will something that works `over there'' work here, or will it fail to `fit'' our ways of doing things? Which practices will adapt or evolve into something different in a different setting? Which may catalyse forces that will change our entire system of labor relations? This paper examines these questions regarding the fit or portability of labor relations across borders. Analysing the interrelation of diverse labor practices within a country, much less across national lines, raises empirical and conceptual questions on the frontier of social science, if not beyond. There are issues about how national, company, or union policies actually operate at work places. There are issues about how to model the interactions among unions, firms and the government agencies that regulate labor relations. In this paper I make no pretence to having `solved'' these complicated issues. Rather, my goal is to highlight some important aspects of the problem and to begin to develop a framework for thinking about them.

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