Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The Future of Union Organising?


This weekend I meet up again with the current MA (international labour and trade union studies) students at Ruskin. A highly dynamic, lively bunch who are getting on with their dissertations as they start year 2 of their study.

A quick plug for the MA as I am currently recruiting for the October 2010 intake. More info at: www.ruskin.ac.uk/course/84/summary

Given the global context of the MA and its focus on the future of organised labour I'll be introducing students to the newly published (Aug 09) collection of essays on the future of union organising. The new book has been edited by Gregor Gall, Research Professor of Industrial Relations and Director of the Centre for Research in Employment Studies at the University of Hertfordshire.

The author has featured a few times in my blog given his excellent coverage of, amongst others, the Lindsey Oil Refinery Dispute and his more recent focus on the postal workers dispute.

His latest book is well worth a read and provides a fantastic (predominantly European) snapshot of organising strategies. Some of the issues covered are, from my point of view, a bit old hat and present nothing radically new e.g. social partnership in Ireland.

Of more interest to me however, was the final piece which examined more recent efforts to organise young workers in supermarkets.

Overall the new book is well worth a read. The full list of articles is

Union Organising Past, Present and Future--G.Gall
Union Organising in the US: New Tactics, Old Barriers--K.Moody
Opening Pandora's Box: The Paradox of Institutionalised Organising--S.Cohen
Social Partnership and Union Revitalisation: The Irish Case--K.Allen
Union Organising in the Netherlands: A Combination of Organising and Servicing Strategies--M.van Klaveren &--W.Sprenger
Reinvention of Activism: A Chance for Union Renewal in New Market Economies? The Case of Poland--A.Mrozowicki, V.Pulignano &--G.van Hootegem
The Servicing Organising Community Continuum: Where are Australian Unions Today?--M.Jerrard, S.Cockfield &--D.Buttigieg
Labour Union Strategies in the European Union Steel Sector--D.Stroud &--P.Fairbrother CleanStart: Fighting for a Fair Deal for Cleaners--M.Crosby
Organising Immigrants: State Policy and Union Organising Tactics in the Republic of Ireland--M.Gonzalez-Perez, T.Dundon &--T.McDonough
Union Organising with Old and New Industrial Relations Actors: Sex Workers in Australia and the United States--G.Gall
Reconstructing Construction Unionism: Beyond Top-down and Bottom-up--D.Belman &--A.Smith
Contrasts and Contradictions in Union Organising: The Irish Mushroom Industry--F.Arqueros-Fernndez
Union Renewal and Young People: Some Positive Indications from British Supermarkets--I.Byford

As you read through the articles there is clearly some radical solutions being applied in non-traditional sectors. Do you think your workplace/sector has an interesting story to tell of the way in which you have recruited/retained groups of workers?

As usual, all contributions welcome.




ToadBoy said...

I got plenty of info on trade union members leaving in droves or getting sacked but I bet your not interested in the real story?

Glad to see that academics can make money out of real working peopls lives

Andrew Maybury said...

In response to ToadBoy I would say that issues surrounding the decline in union density is one of the things that academics in this field examine to try and get at the 'real story'. I also know that academics carry out work commissioned by unions to help them with their baragaining and negotiations.
As to recruitment I firmly believe that people join unions for the 'traditional' reasons they always have to benefit from the collective strength and protection this offers. Academic studies have shown this to be the case! This is why recruiting around issues is always more productive in my view than offering cheap insurance etc and other individual benefits.

Andrew Maybury

Jas said...

I agree with Andrew on this.

We need as many people as possible, from activists to academics having a long hard look at what works and what doesn't.

It's easy to sit on the sideline snearing, but I'd rather be in the discussion and organising the fightback!


Ian Manborde said...

Andrew and Jas,

Many thanks for your detailed rebuttal of ToadBoy's position - if you can call it that.

The new book from Gregor Gall seeks only to provide trade unionists with answers to some of the greatest challenges we face.

If he could be bothered to buy and read the book he'd see that the degree of analysis that has taken place, for example, on strategies to engage poorly paid shop workers - surely a cause worthy of applause.

All credit to you to for defending the need for rigorous analysis, debate and, as you say Jas, a credible fightback.