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Labor Revitalization: Global Perspectives and New Initiatives

ISBN: 978-0-76230-882-8, eISBN: 978-1-84950-153-8

Publication date: 2 October 2003


As trade unions have continued to decline in membership and influence across the developed economies, so academic attention has turned to the prospects for renewal and a search for the conditions under which it might plausibly occur (Fairbrother, 2000; Martin & Ross, 1999; Turner, 1999). One leg of this search has been directed towards the changing context which unions face and has resulted in the prescription that unions must change their policies, structures and culture to accommodate a “new workforce” (Cobble, 1994; Heckscher, 1988; Wever, 1998). A second leg has been directed within unions themselves and has been concerned more with the internal processes through which renewal can take place (Fiorito et al., 1995; Hurd, 1998; Pocock, 1998). In the U.K., two distinctive theories of change in trade unions have emerged along this second line of inquiry, one of which, the “rank and file” model, holds that significant change occurs from the bottom-up and requires the mobilisation of members against a conservative leadership (Fairbrother, 1996). The other, the “managerial” model, claims the opposite is true and that renewal is conditional on effective systems of union management and occurs from the top–down (Willman et al., 1993). Both theories are venerable and in Britain their roots can be traced on the one hand to the Webbs and their conviction that effective unions required professional leadership and on the other to the apostles of industrial syndicalism (Fox, 1985, pp. 66, 256–260). They continue to structure debate, however, and the purpose of this article is to provide an empirical examination of each with regard to an issue, which seemingly is critical to the internal renewal of unions, the development of organising activity.


Heery, E., Delbridge, R., Simms, M., Salmon, J. and Simpson, D.H. (2003), "ORGANISING FOR RENEWAL: A CASE STUDY OF THE U.K.’s ORGANISING ACADEMY", Cornfield, D.B. and Mccammon, H.J. (Ed.) Labor Revitalization: Global Perspectives and New Initiatives (Research in the Sociology of Work, Vol. 11), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 79-110.



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