Employee voice in the Anglo-American world: What does it mean for unions?
There are enough similarities across the six Anglo-American countries in context, institutions, and competitive environment to make learning from one another not only possible, but also highly practical. Unions need to recreate themselves while still maintaining their traditional core mission of representing employee collective interests in the workplace. Organizing, both internally and externally, will remain the key to achieving this objective. How unions go about organizing will be the challenge they now face. They need to appeal to workers who traditionally have not been their members and to workers who face a different set of constraints at work: part-time employment, contingent employment contracts, and often high levels of turnover. Once organized, new members must then be brought into the union as active and involved members. Internal union democracy is important to workers as they want a say in the governance of their union and about the direction the union pursues vis a vis their daily life at work. Unions require the active involvement of their members, which is not simply conflict with the employer, or a burst of activism when a new agreement is negotiated. Rather, active involvement of members will encompass effective participation of members in ongoing structures and processes of consultation and workplace governance. To be effective in this new context unions will require a new set of capabilities. Constructing a union vision for workplace change and ensuring it is communicated effectively to members is central to shaping how worker representatives engage with management in the workplace. The ability to cooperate with management from a position of strength is also a key requirement. Having a vibrant network of union trained member activists within the workplace will help unions in at least two critical ways. First, it will make engagement with the employer on the union's agenda much more likely. Second, where a free-rider problem exists, it will help to build the union within the workplace.
What Workers Say: Employee Voice in the Anglo-American World