Democracy and Solidarity

Rich Hyman, Birmingham School of Economics

Exactly why is union democracy important? For four crucial reasons. First, unions have always identified their role, at least in part, because instruments for any more democratic order in industry and society. Although how can that they act as a channel of industrial democracy if they happen to be not themselves democratic? Second, unions' legitimacy as social actors rests in significant measure on the claims to representativeness, although without inner democracy, this sort of claims are tendentious. Third, unions will be vehicles of solidarity, calling on their associates and proponents to identify with broader course interests instead of merely going after short-term person or parochial advantage. And fourth, assemblage require not simply their members' ‘willingness to pay' yet also all their ‘willingness to act' (Offe and Wiesenthal 1985), and this they are far more likely to display if they see themselves as having helped shaped the union's programme.

A century ago, inside their classic examination of operate union capabilities, Sidney and Beatrice Webb (1897) saw unions' central purpose since establishing a 'common rule' governing the employment circumstances of all members of each worker group. Mass labour moves often appreciated this rule in a type more stiff than the Webbs themselves envisaged: collective regulation in commercial relations frequently showed substantial resemblance to Durkheim's notion of mechanical solidarity. This was difficult in three key areas.

First, this presupposed a standardisation of regulation: a 'one-size-fits-all' type of employment conditions. Paradoxically, there was clearly often an elective affinity between operate union rule-making and the standardisation imposed in workers by simply 'Fordist' companies. While employers insisted that workers had been 'not paid to think', unions had been suspicious of the notion that individual personnel should physical exercise choice more than their work conditions.

Second, to some extent as being a corollary, mass trade unionism was normally based on a hierarchical structure of control which mirrored that of the employer, with a centralised determination of policy and insistence on disciplined observation of authoritative decisions. Such a model of solidarity could possibly be justified with regards to the requires of an successful fighting organisation; and more prosaically, from the Webbs onwards it is often common to believe what they terminated as 'primitive democracy' is definitely incompatible with administrative productivity and settling expertise: just like business organisations, unions themselves should accept the rule of scientific management. This may have worked in the past, but is definitely inappropriate for a more singularly assertive constituency of genuine or potential members.

Third, the unification of interest portrayal has always been picky. In most countries and at most times, there include often been strong pressures to avoid queries which may show internally debatable and to spotlight those on which unions can easily deliver results through discussion with companies or with governments. Commonly this has sturdy unions' role as bureaucratic bargaining real estate agents at the expense of their potential as interpersonal movements.

Within my view, mechanical solidarity is definitely an idea and an positioning whose the passed. They have locked transact unions all over the world into a vocabulary and a mode of action which will no longer attract and in many cases repel those in whose interests assemblage wish to represent. This has consequently resulted in the widespread belief of unions as a ‘vested interest' rather than ‘sword of justice' (Flanders 1970). There is certainly an vital need for fresh understandings of solidarity based upon new concepts of union democracy.

Union membership is almost universally in decline: the key cross-national difference is in the speed, not the truth of this drop. In the main, the composition of union account reflects the labour push of half a century in the past: predominantly male,...

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Hoffmann, L (2002) ‘Beyond the Myth: " International Solidarity" as a Problem to Trade Unions inside the Age of Globalisation and Europeanisation' in J. Hoffmann, ed. The Solidarity Dilemma, Brussels: ETUI, 119-44.

Offe, C. and Wiesenthal, H. (1985) ‘Two Logics of Group Action', in C. Offe, Disorganized Capitalism. Cambridge: Polity, 170-220.

Richards, A. M. (2001) 'The Crisis of Union Portrayal ', in G. Van Guyes, They would. De Witte and P. Pasture, eds, Can Course Still Combine?, Aldershot: Ashgate, 13-36.

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