Rethinking Power, Strategy and Renewal: Members and Unions in Crisis

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Abstract

Why are some unions unable to rebuild membership and bargaining coverage despite significant changes in strategy? We examine the trajectory of a key union in a vital sector, the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, calling into question aspects of the union renewal literature. Much scholarship sees members’ associational power as a power resource that can cover the loss of other power resources, but we show that this assumption does not necessarily hold. To explain why members are not necessarily a resource in renewal, we argue that studies of renewal must more fully consider the interplay between different forms of power resources — institutional, structural and societal — and locate union strategies within that dynamic. Critically, this interplay also shapes members’ perceptions of their power, which may further limit a union's options as it responds to external threats.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)424-446
Number of pages23
JournalBritish Journal of Industrial Relations: an international journal of employment relations
Volume58
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020

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