Representing the new 'we': Trade union solidarity in neo-liberal globalization

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Commodification and exploitation in the labour market do not only produce fragmentation and challenge trade union solidarity it also produces polarization and lead to protest and organisation (e.g. Lindberg & Neergaard 2013). Nevertheless, solidarity does not just happen. It has to be constructed, and trade unions play a key role in this.The overall interest of the paper is how solidarity among a widely diverse group of workers is produced, reproduced, changed, and challenged today. The specific interest is on trade union solidarity strategies. Taking off in a conflict about changes in housekeepers’ working conditions in a Danish based international hotel chain, and how the union 3F dealt with this, the paper discusses interest representation and the making of a new ‘we’ in a changed socio-politico-economic environment.Key to the making of a new ‘we’ is the framing of interests: How do unions represent workers’ interests? What is on the agenda? Who is included in interest representation? And where does interest representation take part? However, for trade unions to become a new ‘we’ not only interest representation is important. Trade unions exist in a dynamic relationship to societal dynamics, workplace collectivism and workers’ political identification: they interact and mutually ‘shape’ each other (also Doellgast et al 2018). Union renewal literature points at deep organizing, democracy developments, coalition building and changes in agenda in order to meet the challenges and to include all workers. Yet, trade unions also need to redefine the ‘we’ (Hansen in writing; Hyman 2011).

Research

The paper builds on research funded by the Danish Research Council for Society and Business. The research focuses on commercial cleaners and the trade union, 3F, in Denmark. Commercial cleaning is centrally placed in processes of exploitation and commodification. It is reproductive work and outsourcing is common. It is low-paid, done alone, connoted female and increasingly done by migrants. The organization percentage and coverage by collective agreements are lower than in the labour market in general.

Data production ran from 2013‒2016. It consists of 27 interviews (34 persons) with trade union leaders, employee representatives, cleaners in hotels and hospitals and migrant network leaders; fieldwork in the trade union 3F, at organising activities, in migrant networks and in workplaces; one memory workshop with female trade union leaders and officers; and one research circle with trade union leaders, officers with diverse backgrounds.

 

References

Doellgast, V., Lillie, N. & Pulignano, V. (2018): Reconstructing Solidarity: Labour Unions, Precarious Work, and the Politics of Institutional Change in Europe, Oxford University Press

Hansen, LL (in writing): ‘Labour solidarity/ies today’

Hyman, R. (2011) ‘Trade unions, global competition and options for solidarity’, in Bieler, A. and Lindberg, I. (eds.) Global Restructuring, Labour and the Challenges for Transnational Solidarity, pp 16-29. London and New York: Routledge

Lindberg, I. & Neergaard, A. (2013) ‘”Mellan Marx och Polanyi”- Ett nytt landskap för kollektivt handlande och facklig förnyelse’ in Lindberg and Neergaard (eds.): Bortom Horisonten. Fackets vägval i globaliseringens tid. Stockholm:  Premiss Förlag
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventILPC Conference: Fragmentation and solidarities - University of Vienna, Wien, Austria
Duration: 24 Apr 201926 Apr 2019
https://www.ilpc.org.uk/Previous-Conferences

Conference

ConferenceILPC Conference
LocationUniversity of Vienna
CountryAustria
CityWien
Period24/04/201926/04/2019
Internet address

Cite this

Hansen, L. L. (2019). Representing the new 'we': Trade union solidarity in neo-liberal globalization. Paper presented at ILPC Conference, Wien, Austria.