Labour in 'lean' times: Geography, scale and the national trajectories of workplace change

Tod D. Rutherford, Meric S. Gertler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


In this paper we argue that far from being surpassed by globalization, the nation-state remains a key space for organized labour. However, labour geographers' focus on patterns of union organization and strategies of 'internationalism' underplays the enduring role of national institutions. Moreover, while labour geographers have recognized the significance of new forms of work organization, such as just in time and lean production, with some exceptions they have not examined how unions both formally and informally determine the trajectory of workplace change. Based on case studies of unions in the Canadian and German auto industries, we stress that the linkage between national and workplace scales remains critical to understanding how unions are responding to the challenges being presented by lean and just in time production. Finally, while there is a re-scaling of bargaining in the automobile industry to the firm or enterprise scale, the outcomes of decentralization depend largely on the national regulatory context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-212
Number of pages18
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002


  • Canada
  • Germany
  • Just in time
  • Labour
  • Lean
  • National
  • Production
  • Scale

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


Dive into the research topics of 'Labour in 'lean' times: Geography, scale and the national trajectories of workplace change'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this