The question of why workers support unions is one of the most fundamental in employment relations. Using Ajzen’s Theory of Planned Behavior we conduct a selective review of literature and evidence on union voting, joining, and participation. We focus primarily on the question of motivation as stemming from self-interest or from pro-social considerations. Secondary attention is given to the influence of others’ views (subjective norms) and worker perceptions that they can achieve desired behaviors (perceived control or self-efficacy). We find support for the notion that workers are concerned with neither member self-interest (“just us”) alone, nor pro-social (“justice”) alone, but rather that they are motivated to form, join, and participate by both considerations. This micro-foundation for considering unions as institutions suggests that unions are neither narrow self-interested institutions nor purely pro-social movements, but “a little bit of both.” We offer propositions and consider implications for theory, practice, and future research.
We are grateful to Richard Hurd and Bruce Kaufman for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this chapter. We also owe a debt for useful feedback to participants in a session at the 2014 and 2017 Labor and Employment Relations Association meetings (Portland, OR and Anaheim, CA, respectively), at a 2014 workshop at Penn State University’s School of Labor and Employment Relations, and at a session at the 2015 Academy of Management (Vancouver, BC).
Fiorito, J., Padavic, I. and Russell, Z.A. (2018), "Pro-Social and Self-Interest Motivations for Unionism and Implications for Unions as Institutions", Lewin, D. and Gollan, P.J. (Ed.) Advances in Industrial and Labor Relations, 2017: Shifts in Workplace Voice, Justice, Negotiation and Conflict Resolution in Contemporary Workplaces (Advances in Industrial & Labor Relations, Vol. 24), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 185-211. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0742-618620180000024009
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