The title of this collection – Global Unions? – was considered by the editors as a concise way of indicating the range of contemporary problems, aims and frustrations of organized labour in the global political economy. This construct, however, must be linked with several other aspects of organized labour, particularly labour seen as a social force within politics and economics, labour as at least half the population of the world but divided by work practices, organizational forms, ethnicity, culture and gender, and, finally, why in the first decade of the twenty-first century there is a renewed interest in the study of labour and work as an entry point to understanding wider aspects of human society and history.