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Getting members on board: democratic issues in union merger negotiations

Stephan Baraldi (Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden)
Magnus Sverke (Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden)
Gary Chaison (Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 25 April 2008




The purpose of this paper is to examine a failed union merger attempt from a democratic perspective. Although it is estimated that a majority of planned union mergers are never completed, the existing literature is unsuccessful in explaining why it is so. Stressing the importance for merging unions to keep their members informed and participative in the merger process, we highlight two democratic aspects of merger implementation: information anchoring (i.e. the spreading of merger relevant information throughout the membership), and participatory union climate (i.e. the extent to which union leaders provide members with opportunities to participate in union activities and decision making). The act of voting for or against a merger proposal can be regarded as a manifestation of democratic aspects in the internal negotiation process. Thus, members' intention to vote for or against the merger proposal was also analyzed.


Questionnaires were sent to 1,000 members of each of the four participating unions. The survey investigated how many members knew of the merger negotiations, if they would have voted for or against the proposal, and also measured perceptions of the participatory union climate. Discrepancies between representatives and rank‐and‐file members were analyzed, with any significant differences between the two groups interpreted as indicative of the merger process lacking in internal democracy.


The results show that the merger plans were not sufficiently anchored among the membership and that there were significant differences between representatives and rank‐and‐file members in terms of merger plan awareness, vote intention, and perceptions of participatory union climate.

Research limitations/implications

The present study is based on cross‐sectional data collected after the planned merger was rejected.


Few studies have investigated the internal merger negotiation process using an unsuccessful merger attempt as a study case. Also, the need for psychological approaches in IR has long been called for. The present study meets both of these criteria.



Baraldi, S., Sverke, M. and Chaison, G. (2008), "Getting members on board: democratic issues in union merger negotiations", Employee Relations, Vol. 30 No. 3, pp. 221-236.



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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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