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Friendship, Identity, and Solidarity. An Approach to Rights in Plant Closing Cases

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My focus is on the problem of plant closings, which have become increasingly common as the deindustrialization of America has proceeded since the early 1980s. In a well-known article, Joseph William Singer proposed that workers who sued to keep a plant open in the face of a planned closure might appropriately be regarded as possessing a reliance-based interest in the plant that merited some protection. I seek to extend this sort of argument in two ways. In the first half of the paper, I point to the way in which “tacit obligation” emerges in friendship between persons in the absence of explicit commitments. Employers and employees are of course not as such friends. But I argue that the development of tacit obligations binding friends provides a useful analogy for understanding the growth of similar tacit obligations binding plant owners to workers and local communities. In the second half, I draw on Margaret Radin's work on property and identity to ground a related argument. I suggest that the potential contribution of plants—and the traditions and networks of relationships they help to create and sustain—to the identities of workers and communities provides reason for at least some legal protection of employee and community interests.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: La Sierra University, USA

Publication date: 2003-09-01

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