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Despite being increasingly touted as the kind of fundamental transformation needed for union survival, “community unionism” is typically ill‐defined and poorly explained. This paper seeks to provide greater precision of terminology and context through a series of geographically‐informed historical studies.
Through explaining and synthesising the work of a number of scholars from different disciplines, the paper develops a framework for a “geo‐historical” analysis. It begins not with community unionism as such but with a more open exploration of the relationship between unions and social formations at, for the most part, the local scale. Empirical material, based on original qualitative studies, is presented for one industry, Australian mining, across different places and time periods but concentrating most upon the iron ore regions in Western Australia where recent struggles over union renewal and form have been particularly intense.
This paper argues two things about community unionism: that this union form is not without historical antecedents and, more importantly, that its structure, nature and prospects can be better understood if analysed through a number of concepts which geographers have recently developed to explore the intersections between work, community and employment relations. More needs to be done to explain not only the nature and emergence of community unionism but also the very real problems it faces in sustaining itself, let alone transforming union movements overall. The findings point to the varied forms which so‐called community unionism may take as well as to the challenges to its current forms, including from within the labour movement itself.
The value of the paper lies in its theoretical innovation, drawing on a range of disciplines, and its attempt to situate community unionism precisely – conceptually, historically and geographically.
This article describes the practical and theoretical implications relating to the labor managed firm (LMF), which has been formed from an insolvent company purchased by…
This article describes the practical and theoretical implications relating to the labor managed firm (LMF), which has been formed from an insolvent company purchased by its workers. The research focuses on an international comparison and the cultural context of six LMFs – two each in the United States, Spain, and Italy where legislation supports worker buyouts from insolvency. Adopting a critical theoretical approach it draws on the scholarship of industrial relations and human resource management, grounded in a historical analysis to predict when a transformative or integrative LMF will be formed.
Taking a case study methodology to enable an in-depth understanding of the firms internal processes and relationships the use of semi-structured interviews of blue- and white-collar workers (with the use of a translator) and the administration of a structured questionnaire are used to gather and triangulate qualitative and quantitative data. The research limitations relate to the small number of respondents in each firm, which prevented more rigorous analysis, and calls for further research with larger numbers of respondents.
The results reveal that at macro level the theoretical model predicts that the LMF will have a propensity to emerge when there are market failures, when there is support from the state and the labor movement. The type of LMF was found to depend on the national context of industrial relations. At the micro level a core set of practices were found to work together to lead to high member commitment and positive behavioral outcomes.
The research has important social implications by informing public policy aimed at redressing the injustice to employees when a business fails and jobs and entitlements are lost.
The article advances an understanding of the theoretical nature of the LMF.
Revitalization or regeneration has become an increasingly urgent task for Australian unions. This is largely due to the longer-term chronic decline in membership of…
Revitalization or regeneration has become an increasingly urgent task for Australian unions. This is largely due to the longer-term chronic decline in membership of organised trade unions and the increasingly hostile political and legal climate faced by Australian trade unions. Pessimistic scenarios presented by neo-liberal politicians and commentators have trade unions dissolving into obscurity over time as their relevance in an advanced post-industrial society declines. More optimistic scenarios, in part based on the recent experience of labor movements in the U.K. and Canada, see the difficult current climate as an opportunity to re-evaluate union strategies, structures and policies.