T3-06: Looking inside the union

6 September 2019, 16:45–18:15

Chair: Melanie Simms


Voice within the union

Relationship of leader, status and voice behaviour

Kyungyeon Kim, Korea University

» Full paper: ilera-2019-paper-66-Kim.pdf

Member's participation is crucial for the survival of trade unions. However, little attention has been paid to voice within trade union, while plenty of voice literature have been studied in organizational behaviour. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to uncover the relationship with leaders, organizational support and member's voice behaviour. Also, we will attempt to explore mediating roles of felt obligation for constructive change at the individual- level of voice mechanism under the union-context.

Major result of this study will be to find out positive relationship between Authentic leadership and member's voice behaviour, as regarding to mobilization theory (H1). Also, we will exam potential positive relationship between perceived insider status and member's voice behaviour, by applying organizational support theory (H2). Moreover, in order to find out antecedent of union member's voice behaviour, we will consider felt obligation for constructive change as playing mediating role of this mechanism. (i.e. felt obligation for constructive change as mediator of authentic leadership and voice behaviour (H3), and as mediator of PIS and voice behaviour (H4))

The implication of this study is to find out that union leadership and organization supports are antecedent of members' voice behaviour via felt obligation for constructive change. Union should recognize importance of voice and try to make better climate to encourage member's voice, by using leader and organizational supports. Consequently, voice within the union should be encouraged, and so is voice research in union-context as well.

Keywords: Voice, Authentic leadership, Perceived insider status, Trade Union

Dilemmas of union democracy, national and international

Rebecca Gumbrell-McCormick, Birkbeck College, University of London
Richard Hyman, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

There is a broad consensus across European countries (and indeed more widely) that trade unions should be, and to a large extent are, democratic organisations. To be taken seriously by their interlocutors (employers and governments), unions require democratic legitimacy; and must be able to harness their members’ ‘willingness to act in order to mobilise collectively in support of their demands. But ever since Michels (if not earlier), it has often been argued that unions are not, and perhaps cannot be, democratic. There is also an influential thesis that ‘too much’ democracy inhibits unions effectiveness by obstructing the strategic leadership necessary to coordinate and prioritise diverse membership interests and to frame long-term policy objectives. We examine some of the different factors influencing the degree and type of union democracy, including the relation between national centres and industrial unions; the role of full time officials as opposed to lay officers and activists; and differences of power and interest within unions and how these are resolved. In our paper we will review some of these debates and examine the very different ways in which union democracy is understood cross-nationally.

Bearing in mind the increased importance of the international level in trade union action, we also examine the distinctive issues involved in applying theories of union democracy to supranational union organisations, with specific reference to the ETUC and to the ITUC (where the issue of internal democracy was a dominant theme at its December 2018 Congress). If democracy is difficult to practise at the national level, it is even more so at the international level, where the organisation is one step further away from the individual member and activist.  Further, for historical and structural reasons, the international union bodies have tended to be dominated by a multi-lingual elite who, with the best will in the world, are largely remote from the concerns of the ordinary trade unionist.

This paper will build on the authors’ recent work on union democracy and on international trade unionism to present a fresh perspective on the current practice and future perspectives for trade union democracy, at both the national and international levels.

Trade unions and perceptions of class conflicts

Josef Ringqvist, Karlstad University

Do trade unions, as some would argue, increase class division and conflict in society? Or, conversely, do they – as e.g., pluralists long have argued – institutionalise conflicts and thus contribute to bind society together? Claims about the nature of the role of unions span from those stressing their divisive character to those emphasising social integration and consensus (Brandl & Traxler, 2010; Brym, 1986; Douglas A. Hibbs, 1976; Jansson, 2012; Kelly, 1998; Wright, 1985). Trade union movements were a significant societal force of the 20th century. Although the trend toward deunionisation is more or less general across the western economies (Schnabel, 2013; Waddington, 2015), there is substantial cross-national variation. Despite decreasing degrees of organisation, trade unions remain important societal actors. Studying the implications of trade unionism pertaining to class conflict is therefore well justified. While class conflicts may take several forms, such as objective differences between classes in terms of political preferences or attitudes (Edlund & Lindh, 2015), this paper is concerned with the notion of explicitly perceived conflicts between social classes. The present paper analyses the effect of individual-level trade union membership and country-level trade union density on individuals’ perceptions of work-related class conflicts (between workers and managers). Hierarchical linear probability models (individuals nested in countries) are applied to data from the International Social Survey Program (ISSP) module on Social Inequality (2009). Three competing hypotheses are put to empirical testing. According to the first hypothesis, trade union members are more likely than non-members to perceive class conflicts, and trade union density, by increasing class division and workers’ critical attitudes, will further increase individuals’ perceptions of class conflicts. The second hypothesis also posits a positive association between individual-level union membership and perceived class conflicts but suggests that country-level trade union density (by contributing to the institutionalisation of class conflicts and decreasing income inequality) generally will have a negative effect on perceived class conflicts. Lastly, the third hypothesis suggests that there is no association between unionism and perceptions of class conflicts. The results in large support H2: whereas union members are more likely than non-members to perceive class conflicts, individuals in countries with higher trade union density tend to be less likely to perceive class conflicts. The effect of union density, however, is not attributable to the mediating effect of income inequality as objective levels of income inequality have no effect on perceived class conflicts. Furthermore, aside from class conflicts being less widely perceived, the paper also finds social cohesion to be higher in countries with higher trade union density. These results can be read as refuting claims about the divisive societal role of trade unions and, while here only applying to cross-country differences, thus also raise some concerns about the potential consequences of further union decline.

Keywords: class conflicts, perceptions, trade unions, social cohesion

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