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The purpose of this paper is to build on the insights of mobilisation theory to examine the interplay of structure and agency dynamics in strike activity. It proposes to…
The purpose of this paper is to build on the insights of mobilisation theory to examine the interplay of structure and agency dynamics in strike activity. It proposes to do so by investigating the 2007 36‐hour strike undertaken by 2,300 engineering and infrastructure workers employed by the private consortium Metronet on the London Underground, focusing attention on the relationship between workers’ militancy, trade union leadership and left‐wing politics within a highly distinctive and union favourable “opportunity structure” context.
Semi‐structured in‐depth interviews were conducted with 24 RMT union informants within Metronet and the London Underground (including union members, reps, branch and regional officers); analysis was made of documentary industrial relations and trade union material; and personal fieldwork observation.
Although favourable specific contextual and contingent factors served as both provocations and resources for strike action, notably in enhancing workers’ bargaining position and lending feasibility to a strike mobilisation approach, the role of trade union leadership and left‐wing politics at every level of the union in collectivising workers’ experiences and aspirations in forms which directly encouraged combativity was also crucial.
The specificity of the case study limits the degree of generalisation that can be made to other industries. Researchers are encouraged to test the proposed analytical approach further.
The paper provides case‐study empirical evidence into an important arena of employment in the UK, contributes to our understanding of the multi‐dimensional causes of strike activity; and adds an important political dimension to the analysis of collective mobilisation often neglected in both industrial relations and social movement literature.
The purpose of this paper is to introduce the special issue by problematising labour agency, precariousness, and labour fragmentation as defining themes of the interplay…
The purpose of this paper is to introduce the special issue by problematising labour agency, precariousness, and labour fragmentation as defining themes of the interplay between employment relations, migration and mobility.
Drawing from discussions about the impact of globalisation on changes in features of work and employment, and bringing together theory and research on employment relations and labour migration, the paper discusses the relational spatial and temporal nature of agency, the diverse features of worker experiences of precariousness, and the resulting fragmentation in labour solidarity.
Labour agency, precariousness and labour fragmentation intersect to create the axis of dynamics of hardship and abuse that dominate work experiences of migrant workers in the global labour market. Globalisation has a pervasive impact in articulating and perpetuating systemic processes of closure, entrapment and containment, which are triggered by migration and legitimised by dynamics of employment relations.
The paper contributes to current discussions about the interplay between migration, mobility and employment relations and sets out future directions of research to enhance our understanding of the role of employment relations to perpetuate, legitimise and normalise dynamics of globalisation that promote the migrant division of labour and create contradictory labour demands and displacements in the global labour market.
Social democratic unionism has arguably been one of the most successful worker organisations in modern history. Through collective bargaining and political influence, this…
Social democratic unionism has arguably been one of the most successful worker organisations in modern history. Through collective bargaining and political influence, this type of unionism has been effective in redistributing the gains from capitalist markets. This paper reviews the challenges, pathways and dilemmas social democratic unions face in the knowledge economy. Similar to industrialisation, the knowledge economy has the potential to fundamentally change the social fabric that trade unions derive their power resources from. There are three major and interrelated challenges: (1) technological change and the knowledge economy, (2) new socio-political coalitions and (3) keeping employers in. Focussing on Denmark and Sweden, it is argued that these three challenges strike the core of social democratic unionism, as they can undermine the ability to encompass the whole labour market because of polarisation or upgrading of jobs. The paper goes on to outline three possible pathways: ‘going radical’, ‘going academic’ and ‘going old-school’. ‘Going radical’ entails a sharper focus on fighting precarious work with other regulatory means other than collective bargaining. ‘Going academic’ entails a focus on education and lifting all occupational groups. ‘Going old-school’ entails adapting the principle of collective bargaining to new types of companies and occupations while sticking to the regulatory means as before. It is argued that none of the strategies is a silver bullet to the challenges, but that a key to the success of any of the strategies is that minimum wage levels are defended, as this will fuel investment in education for lower-paid work.
At the turn of the twentieth century, various Socialist parties vied for a place in the American political system, making alliances where possible and convenient with…
At the turn of the twentieth century, various Socialist parties vied for a place in the American political system, making alliances where possible and convenient with elements of organized labor. Robert Franklin Hoxie, an economist at the University of Chicago whose principle contributions lay in his writings on the labor movement, wrote a series of essays in which he scrutinized the activities of the Socialist Party of America as it appeared to be at the time poised to become a viable force in American politics. This essay examines Hoxie’s writings on the conventions of the Socialist Party within the context of the political dynamic of the period and reveals his interpretations of events based on contemporary accounts and first-hand observations.
In recent years, the long-declining U.S. labor movement has refocused in new and promising ways on rank-and-file mobilization, in organizing drives, collective bargaining…
In recent years, the long-declining U.S. labor movement has refocused in new and promising ways on rank-and-file mobilization, in organizing drives, collective bargaining conflicts and political campaigns. Such efforts are widely viewed as the best hope for revitalizing the labor movement: breathing new life into tired old unions, winning organizing drives and raising membership levels, increasing political influence, pushing toward the power necessary to reform labor law and ineffective labor institutions. The stakes are high and the goals ambitious: to close the “representation gap” at the workplace, reverse growing economic and social inequality, and build new coalitions for expanded democratic participation in local, national and global politics.
This chapter examines the labor-empowerment potential of emerging taxi driver cooperative-union partnerships. Cooperative-union partnerships can adopt differing stances…
This chapter examines the labor-empowerment potential of emerging taxi driver cooperative-union partnerships. Cooperative-union partnerships can adopt differing stances toward the virtue of waging broad-based, class-conscious conflict against economic elites to win economic change, as opposed to the virtue of small-scale and practical steps to improve the immediate conditions of individual “job-conscious” workers. This case study utilizes a “class consciousness” versus “job consciousness” framework to examine a recent immigrant taxi driver union-cooperative partnership.
Case study of taxi driver organizing in Denver (CO), utilizing narrative inquiry, and survey and interviews with 69 drivers.
The US tradition of accommodational job consciousness continues to influence union and cooperative leaders. Among Denver’s taxi cooperatives, an emphasis on accommodational job consciousness, bereft of class perspectives, has undermined a narrative promoting worker solidarity or encouraging workers to engage in social justice campaigns for immigrant workers. The consequence has been to weaken the transformational potential of taxi driver activism.
Findings based on a single case study need to be confirmed through additional research.
Cooperative-union partnerships that adopt a class-conscious political approach, including leadership development opportunities, a “labor empowerment curriculum, and partnerships with broader social movements, are a promising alternative to narrowly tailored “job conscious” organizing strategies.
Immigrants are increasingly forming worker cooperatives, and the recent Denver taxi driver union-cooperative is one of the largest taxi cooperatives in the country. Current research on the labor empowerment consequences of these emerging immigrant cooperatives is sparse.
In the discussion groups subjects will be taken up which are not dealt with in the lectures. The subjects to be taken up in the discussion groups of each week and the…
In the discussion groups subjects will be taken up which are not dealt with in the lectures. The subjects to be taken up in the discussion groups of each week and the assignments relating thereto will be announced well in advance of the meetings. : The textbook used in this course is:
A “new” interpretation of Section 7 in the National Labor Relations Act could serve as the basis of union renewal, in enabling and supporting non-majority, non-exclusive…
A “new” interpretation of Section 7 in the National Labor Relations Act could serve as the basis of union renewal, in enabling and supporting non-majority, non-exclusive representation as an alternative to the difficulties of union certification. One potential shortcoming of this form of representation is interunion conflict associated with ongoing competition between unions trying to attract each other's members in the same bargaining units. However, interview evidence collected from union executives in New Zealand, where non-majority, non-exclusive representation already exists, suggests that such conflict is normally limited. Focusing representation on areas that make the most sense (for both unions and workers) and following union federation protocols, when conflicts occur, have both contributed to the overall low conflict level. Lessons for US unionism are explored.
The employment practices of major American companies underwent a marked transformation in the fifteen-year period dating roughly from the beginning of World War I to the…
The employment practices of major American companies underwent a marked transformation in the fifteen-year period dating roughly from the beginning of World War I to the oncoming of the Great Depression in late 1929 (Jacoby, 1985; Lescohier, 1935). At the start of World War I, the practice of personnel management was unknown in American industry. Instead, employment practices were largely informal, unscientific and administered in a decentralized, often heavy-handed and capricious manner by foremen and gang bosses. Labor was typically viewed as a commodity to be bought for as little possible and used for only as long as needed, leading to an employment relationship that was short-term and insecure. The prevailing methods of management were also highly autocratic and arbitrary, with workers expected to obey whatever orders were given and at risk of being fired for any offense real or imagined.
This paper examines the preconditions of the strike at the Greek steel company Hellenic Halyvourgia (HH) which started on 1 November 2011 and ended on 28 July 2012. The…
This paper examines the preconditions of the strike at the Greek steel company Hellenic Halyvourgia (HH) which started on 1 November 2011 and ended on 28 July 2012. The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the understanding of current labour disputes in the context of economic crisis focusing on previous developments of mobilisation theory and social movement literature. The overall aim is to highlight the linkages between trade unions and society when a broader sense of injustice comes to the fore.
Qualitative methods were employed in order to contextualise the strike events and examine the preconditions of the occurrence and the volume of the strike. Semistructured interviews, field notes, interviews taken by the media, documentaries, chronicles and articles, constructed the main body of empirical material.
The HH case indicates that certain collective identities and leadership qualities account for high mobilisation potential with spillover effects which are in turn conditioned upon the situation of the strikers’ allies. Although there was an agency to transform the sense of injustice into collective action, the framing processes employed by the union did not have the kind of impact that would render state and management’s responses ineffective, as the strike message did not eventually penetrate other industries or even the rest factories of the HH.
The present paper goes beyond the general description of the social turmoil during the Greek crisis by showing the critical bonds that were established through framing and identity-building processes among the strikers and the anti-austerity protesters in Greece and abroad.