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LS 2A03E - Union Renewal - December 4.docx

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McMaster University
Labour Studies
Sam Vrankulj

LABOUR STUDIES 2A03E – UNIONS UNION RENEWAL? – December 4, 2013 Declining Labour Power - Erosion of union power resulting from: o Legislative assault o Global capital and labour markets o Higher levels of unemployment with fewer unemployment supports  Resulted from shift of economy  Shift from demand to supply o Atrophied political activism Post-War Model of Labour Relations - Legal certification and compulsory bargaining - Union security o Rand formula o Dues check off - Single establishment /bargaining agent exclusively - Limit on strikes o Must be legal and after collective agreement expires o No wildcat strikes (illegal) - Tacit legitimization of union political role o “junior partner” in maintaining economic and political order - State commitment to political and economic structures to ensure stability o Favourable to both unionized and non-unionized workers Union Membership - Organized along industrial sector o Natural jurisdiction - Power based on density within a particular sector (take wages out of competition) o Equalize working wages and conditions across the sector (standardize) o “lip-sawing” - Ignored smaller workplaces (not a threat to collective bargaining power – there is power in numbers) o Labour relations system o Unions had a critical mass so not a threat to union power - Certification process favoured male dominated workplaces Union Priorities/Structures - Reoriented away from radical politics o No more overthrowing the system, but rather fix it - Focused on consolidating gains through collective bargaining and expansion - Required specialized staff to interpret and police collective agreements in workplace Union Organizational Structure - Large hierarchal organizational structures in national/international unions o Very linear (up/down) - Union locals organized along firm or single location - Centralized decision making process - Tended toward bureaucratization and specialists Drift to Service Unionism - Centralized leadership structure - Bureaucracy of experts to service members - Distinctions between internal and external organizing activities - Activity focused on material gains and enforcement of collective agreements - Narrow conception of scope of solidarity 1980s and Beyond: Greater Diversification - De-industrialization o Mass job loss o De-unionization - Service sector growth (relative and absolute) - Employment status o Non-standard (can be secure work, but not full-time, could be contract or on call, etc.) and precarious employment - Gender/racial implications of above o Gender balance in union membership o Greater diversity Industrial Unionism Adaptation - Organizing the unorganized o Eliminate competition - Merge with other unions o Become bigger, stronger - Reorienting bargaining priorities o More reflective of new realities of labour market - Restructuring internal organization o New reality of hostile regulatory system o Problems were political and could be fought in collective bargaining - Reformulating union collective identity o Redefine themselves Organizing Model - Decentralized leadership structures with shared and consultative decision making - Emphasis to develop internal leadership capacities through education o Train people in different aspects - Greater emphasis on external organizing and coalition building o Bringing in new members o Join with other unions o Coalition with other unions for strength - Collective bargaining and enforcement but also bro
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