Edited by Gregor Gall
After nearly five decades of neoliberal capitalism labour unions are at their lowest ebb in most corners of the world. Yet, at the same time, more and more voices are seeing them as a key force for civilising an increasingly uncivil economy and society. This collection of newly commissioned essays from an international cast of contributors provides an authoritative assessment of the continued economic, social and political relevance of labour unions and their potential to bring about progressive societal change.
The essays analyse the past, present and future purposes, roles and activities of labour unions in a number of ways. Firstly, thematically with regard to ideal types and variations in practice, by considering the appeal, identity, forms, interests, ideologies, resources and governance of unionism. Put together, these provide a way to view the actuality and potentiality of labour unionism as well as the obstacles which prevent the realization of its purpose. Secondly, they consider how these components have interacted with each other to produce an overall balance of power, ideology and material interests in society and the economy between contending social forces. Thirdly, they assess a number of the key aspects of unionism such as their influence on the frontier of control over pay, work organisation, working time and workplace democracy; how unions relate to, and organise on, the basis of sectionalities like class, race, gender, migration and generation; whether the reflowering of unions is dependent upon other social movements; and how unions respond to the reconfiguration of work and employment under capitalism.
The approach throughout is to provide a theoretical framework for analysis that will engage with both academics and practitioners.
Gregor Gall is an affiliate research associate in the School of Law and the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow. He was previously Professor of Industrial Relations at Bradford University. He has written widely on trade unions and labour movement politics, including a biography of the union leader Bob Crow (2017).