Participatory democracy in union organizing: The influence of authority structures on workers' sentiments and actions.
AuthorMarkowitz, Linda Jill.
KeywordsLabor unions -- Organizing -- United States.
Labor union democracy -- United States.
Labor unions -- Public relations.
Committee ChairPowell, Walter W.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractLabor unions began creating new organizing strategies in the nineteen-eighties with the hope of increasing membership levels. This dissertation focuses on two such strategies: the "comprehensive campaign" utilized by the International Grocery Workers' Union (IGWU) and the "blitz" developed by the United States Clothing Workers' Union (USCWU). These strategies differ in one fundamental way; the amount of participation they elicit from the workforce being organized. I am interested in how different levels of participation influence workers' sentiments and actions regarding the union. The IGWU's "comprehensive campaign" is a top-down approach. Union officials collect unsavory information about the company in hopes of exchanging this information for union recognition. Workers' role in the campaign is reduced to signing union cards. The USCWU's "blitz" follows a grass-roots approach. With this strategy, union officials train workers to organize their fellow employees. An active worker contingency, then, helps to mobilize the workforce to vote union. Principles from participatory democracy suggest that when an authority structure incorporates participation, individuals feel more satisfied and committed to the organization. The act of participation also affects people behaviorally; participation teaches individuals how to be active. In order to analyze how the different campaign authority structures influenced workers, I interviewed two groups of employees; thirty of whom experienced the comprehensive campaign and twenty of whom participated in the blitz. Both organizing campaigns were successful and resulted in a union contract. I asked employees about their feelings towards the campaigns and their participation in the union after the campaigns ended. I found that workers from the "comprehensive campaign" perceived the union as a business and this conception of the union discouraged activism and left employees ultimately dissatisfied. Workers from the blitz, however, developed a "union as workers" framework. This framework motivated employees to be active after the organizing campaign and gave workers a sense of fulfillment. The findings from this study suggest that organizing strategies involve more than the ability of unions to increase the number of their rank-and-file. They are a crucial method in which workers learn to become active agents within the union.