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Professor Bisom-Rapp Reports from Italy on Marco Biagi Conference

March 20, 2013

Professor Bisom-Rapp in Italy
Professor Bisom-Rapp in Italy
Professor Bisom-Rapp in Italy

Every year since 2003, the Marco Biagi Foundation has hosted an international conference in Modena, Italy devoted to international and comparative employment and labor relations.  TJSL Professor Susan Bisom-Rapp has attended the event annually since 2007. This year’s conference, The Transnational Dimension of Labor Relations: A New Order in the Making?, brought together scholars from Europe, Africa, and the Americas, who analyzed the challenges of regulating work, promoting labor standards, and addressing increasing economic inequality in the wake of the global economic crisis.  Particular attention was given to new forms of transnational collective bargaining, emerging hard and soft law techniques to influence the conduct of transnational corporations, the difficulty of establishing fair conditions of work for migrants, and the lack of a clear hierarchy of law-making authority at the international level.  Participants addressed these issues from a number of disciplines including law, industrial relations, economics, and human resource management.

On March 19, Professor Bisom-Rapp served as the discussant for the second plenary panel, weaving together the intersecting themes of four papers. “This task was a challenge,” she said, “since the papers were on four very different subjects.”  One paper was on “Who Defines the Meaning of Human Rights at Work.”  Another was on the influence on corporate conduct of the country where a transnational corporation locates.  A third covered international administrative law, which is the law covering employees who work for international organizations like the International Labour Organization and the International Monetary Fund.  The final paper was a proposal to set up an transnational labor inspectorate, hosted by the ILO, that would train and certify inspectors who monitor factories in the supply chains of transnational corporations.  “Believe it or not,” said Professor Bisom-Rapp, “there were common themes in those four manuscripts, including: Who makes the law of the workplace in a globalized world?; What is the law of the workplace in a globalized world?; and Who decides the meaning of law in the global workplace when meaning is contested?”

Part of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy, the Marco Biagi Foundation is also home to the International Doctoral Research School in Labour Relations, which promotes PhD work that is comparative and interdisciplinary.  To advance the work of its own students, and establish links with Ph.D. and post-doctoral students around the world, the Foundation launched its Young Scholars’ Workshop last year. Professor Bisom-Rapp helped organize the event this year and last.  “This year, she said, “we heard and commented on papers from PhD students from Norway, Italy, Spain, South Africa, Austria, Estonia, and Hungary.”  “The chance to provide feedback from an outsider’s perspective – that of an American law professor – was fun for me and, I hope, helpful for them,” she said.  “For me, this session has become a highlight of the annual conference.”

“I was first introduced to the Foundation’s annual conference in 2007 by my co-author Roger Blanpain (Universities of Leuven and Tilburg, Belgium and the Netherlands).  Roger, a prolific scholar in the field of comparative labor and employment law, attends most years, as do some of the most influential scholars in that field, including Manfred Weiss (J.W. Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany), Csilla Kollonay-Lehoczy (Central European University, Budapest, Hungary), Jacques Rojot, (University of Paris II – Panthéon Assas, France), Alan Neal (University of Warwick, U.K.), and Janice Bellace (The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania).  “The opportunity for conversations and exchange with these scholars and others has kept me coming back to Modena annually since then,” said Professor Bisom-Rapp.  “It has also led to my fruitful collaboration with Malcolm Sargeant (Middlesex University Business School, London, U.K.), with whom I have written several articles on comparative age discrimination law,” she noted.  Professor Bisom-Rapp, who also serves on the Foundation’s international council, says that her work on the council has helped her understand the challenges facing higher education in Europe.  As for the conference, she said, “I recommend this kind of involvement to American legal scholars interested in a fresh perspective on the challenges and possible solutions to the problems we confront at home.”

Here is a link to the conference program:

See Professor Bisom-Rapp’s Blog on the Workplace Prof Blog

In the first photo (Left to Right): Yaraslau Kryvoi (University of West London); Susan Bisom-Rapp; Manfred Weiss (G.W. Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany); Janice Bellace (The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania); and Antonio Garcia-Munoz Alhambra (University Castilla-La Mancha, Spain).