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No Panacea for Success: Member Activism, Organizing and Union Renewal

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  • Robert Hickey
  • Sarosh Kuruvilla
  • Tashlin Lakhani

Abstract

The precipitous decline in union density and influence around the world has spawned a growing body of scholarship on union renewal. While this literature evidences lively debates regarding the efficacy of different renewal strategies, many argue that the path to renewal is paved through increased member activism. In this article, we question that premise. We examine the importance of rank-and-file union member activism in 44 cases of organizing campaigns in the United States and in the UK. Our review of these cases reveals little support for the notion that member activism is indispensable to union renewal in general, and successful organizing campaigns in particular. Our findings provide additional insight into the debate over top-down and bottom-up strategies for renewal, and raise several questions for future research regarding when, under what conditions, and under what rules worker activism matters for labour union renewal. Copyright (c) Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2009.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Hickey & Sarosh Kuruvilla & Tashlin Lakhani, 2010. "No Panacea for Success: Member Activism, Organizing and Union Renewal," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 48(1), pages 53-83, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:brjirl:v:48:y:2010:i:1:p:53-83
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Simon R. de Turberville, 2004. "Does the ‘organizing model’ represent a credible union renewal strategy?," Work, Employment & Society, British Sociological Association, vol. 18(4), pages 775-794, December.
    2. Jack Fiorito & Daniel G. Gallagher & Cynthia V. Fukami, 1988. "Satisfaction with Union Representation," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 41(2), pages 294-307, January.
    3. Richard B. Freeman & Morris M. Kleiner, 1990. "Employer Behavior in the Face of Union Organizing Drives," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 43(4), pages 351-365, July.
    4. Adrienne E. Eaton & Jill Kriesky, 2001. "Union Organizing under Neutrality and Card Check Agreements," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 55(1), pages 42-59, October.
    5. John-Paul Ferguson, 2008. "The Eyes of the Needles: A Sequential Model of Union Organizing Drives, 1999–2004," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 62(1), pages 3-21, October.
    6. Donna M. Buttigieg & Stephen J. Deery & Roderick D. Iverson, 2008. "Union Mobilization: A Consideration of the Factors Affecting the Willingness of Union Members to Take Industrial Action," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 46(2), pages 248-267, June.
    7. Harry C. Katz & Rosemary Batt & Jeffrey H. Keefe, 2003. "The Revitalization of the CWA: Integrating Collective Bargaining, Political Action, and Organizing," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 56(4), pages 573-589, July.
    8. Jack Fiorito & Paul Jarley & John Thomas Delaney, 1995. "National Union Effectiveness in Organizing: Measures and Influences," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 48(4), pages 613-635, July.
    9. Kate Bronfenbrenner, 1997. "The Role of Union Strategies in NLRB Certification Elections," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 50(2), pages 195-212, January.
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    1. repec:bla:indrel:v:48:y:2017:i:4:p:326-344 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Peter Gahan & Andreas Pekarek, 2013. "Social Movement Theory, Collective Action Frames and Union Theory: A Critique and Extension," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 51(4), pages 754-776, December.
    3. Jan Czarzasty & Katarzyna Gajewska & Adam Mrozowicki, 2014. "Institutions and Strategies: Trends and Obstacles to Recruiting Workers into Trade Unions in Poland," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 52(1), pages 112-135, March.
    4. Jack Fiorito & Irene Padavic & Zachary Russell, 2014. "Union Beliefs and Activism: A Research Note," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 35(4), pages 346-357, December.
    5. Monica Bielski Boris & Jeff Grabelsky, 2014. "Building Power Together: Union Support for Central Labour Bodies," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 52(4), pages 682-704, December.

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