This article uses ethnographic methods, archival research, and systematic process tracing to suggest how McAdam, Tarrow, and Tilly's certification mechanism helps to explain systemic impediments to docker solidarity during the EU docker's campaign, 2001-3. By cross-referencing semistructured interviews across docker INGOs and unions in nine OECD countries and triangulating those interviews with internal communications, I found that although the leaders of the International Transport Workers' Federation and the European Transport Workers' Federation were keen to cooperate with leaders of the competing International Dockers Council, national unions affiliated to the ITF/ETF possessed a special power to prevent cooperation. The “national sovereignty clause” in the ITF/ETF constitution endows existing affiliates of the ITF/ETF with the power to veto applications for affiliation by other unions in their national domain. It also can prevent ITF/ETF leaders from communicating with those excluded unions and their representatives. Thus, ITF/ETF certification is founded, not on mutual recognition among all groups of workers, but rather in the denial of recognition to some. This study traces the origins of the clause to the post-WWII construction of the US-led hegemonic order, when ITF leaders colluded with the American Federation of Labor in dividing labor worldwide along Cold War lines. The study identifies the by-pass mechanisms that today's ETF leaders used and which temporarily enabled cooperation across the INGO divide. It also detects a long-term uneven and unequal representation of southern European unions that can skew the frames and goals of a campaign to reflect the interests of more solidly represented regions of labor. This analysis shows that the study of labor transnationalism is enriched by a combination of ethnographic and indepth historical inquiry, which can help us avoid the Kantian imperatives that seeped into the study of transnational actors after the end of the Cold War. And it shows that, by pushing us deeply behind “campaign time,” the combination of ethnography and archival sleuthing helps students of contentious politics to detect longer processes and bigger power structures than we have been apt to do—structures such as world orders established by a hegemonic state.

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