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There is power in a union: Trade union organization, union membership and union activity in Sweden
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3394-9584
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis investigates what factors affect union organization and, to some degree, union activity in the face of declining union density in the majority of Western countries. Union structures have been changing in recent decades, not only in terms of declining membership but also because women and white-collar workers are becoming a more stable part of the membership base, whereas previously highly organized groups, such as blue-collar workers, are in decline. The point of departure for this thesis is that union density changes must be understood on several different levels. Thus, we must investigate changing union density in light of changing institutional settings, changing labour market structures and changing norms and values on the individual level. The thesis consists of three empirical studies investigating union density changes and union activity in Sweden, and an introductory chapter that develops the theoretical and empirical (historical) background. The empirical studies investigate: (1) whether and how the influence of various aspects of class and ideology on union organization have changed over time, (2) the effect of structural change on union density increase and decline, and(3) what factors influence different attitudes towards industrial action among Swedish employees. Results show that union density decline in Sweden since the mid-1990s cannot be explained by any forceful shifts in the labour market structure or individuals’ opinions and/or attitudes related to trade unions to any significant degree. Union density decline in Sweden is of a general nature. However, an increasing divergence in union density across various categories of employees, including, e.g., private-sector vs. public-sector employees, young vs. older employees, employees of foreign origin vs. employees of Swedish origin, and the atypically employed vs. employees with standardized employment, is observed. Moreover, previously strong predictors of union membership, including class identity, ideology, sector of employment and type of employment contract, are in decline, but they still influence union organization and attitudes towards industrial action.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Sociology, Stockholm University , 2017. , 75 p.
Series
Stockholm studies in sociology, ISSN 0491-0885 ; 70
Keyword [en]
union organization, union density, union activity, social class, ideology, structural change
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-145563ISBN: 978-91-7649-882-8 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7649-883-5 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-145563DiVA: diva2:1130355
Public defence
2017-09-22, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 12, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Submitted. Paper 3: Submitted.

Available from: 2017-08-30 Created: 2017-08-09 Last updated: 2017-08-21Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The declining influence of class and ideology in union membership: Consistent but divergent trends among Swedish employees
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The declining influence of class and ideology in union membership: Consistent but divergent trends among Swedish employees
2017 (English)In: Economic and Industrial Democracy, ISSN 0143-831X, E-ISSN 1461-7099Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

Using individual-level time-series data covering the period from 1990 to 2011, this article provides an empirical analysis of how the influence of various aspects of class and ideology on union organization have changed over time in the Swedish context. The primary results indicate that although union density and the influence of class-related aspects and ideology are decreasing, particularly among groups with traditionally high levels of organization, the general trend is not valid for all categories of employees. Rather, it appears that where the tradition of being organized is weaker, the influence of class and class identity is particularly strong. No evidence is identified that supports the thesis of class loyalty vanishing among the young.

Keyword
Class background, class identity, ideology, social class, union membership
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-145529 (URN)10.1177/0143831X17707823 (DOI)
Available from: 2017-08-08 Created: 2017-08-08 Last updated: 2017-08-10
2. Understanding union density growth and decline in Sweden: The role of structural change
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Understanding union density growth and decline in Sweden: The role of structural change
(English)In: Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

Union density in most Western countries has shifted during the past 40 years from increasing density to sharp declines. Using individual-level time-series data covering the 1968-2010 period, this study analyses the effect of structural change on union density changes in Sweden. Decompositions of union density change shows quite strong gross effects but relatively weak net effects. The net effect of union density increase is close to zero, whereas the net effect of union decline is quite weak. However, the public-sector increase explains approximately 1/6 of the union density increase between the years of 1968-1981. The decline in public-sector employment, changes in the class structure, declining proportions of employees in the manufacturing industry and in large establishments and of employees with permanent contracts contributed to the decline in 1991-2010.

Keyword
Union organization, union decline, union growth, structural change
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-145553 (URN)
Available from: 2017-08-08 Created: 2017-08-08 Last updated: 2017-08-10Bibliographically approved
3. Militant attitudes among Swedish employees: The role of class and social identification
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Militant attitudes among Swedish employees: The role of class and social identification
(English)In: Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

Using a mixed-methods approach, including data from a national sample of 1851 employees and 10 in-depth interviews with various categories of employees, this paper examines what factors influence different attitudes towards industrial action among Swedish employees. It adds to previous research by showing that social class has a strong influence on attitudes, both in terms of its effects on wages and working conditions and in terms of how class identification and class background affects perceptions of (in)justice, which help explain the preference for different strategies in relation to job dissatisfaction.

Keyword
Industrial action, trade union, social class, social identification, collective action
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-145552 (URN)
Available from: 2017-08-08 Created: 2017-08-08 Last updated: 2017-08-10Bibliographically approved

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