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Finding a Voice at Work?New Perspectives on Employment Relations$
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Stewart Johnstone and Peter Ackers

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199668007

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199668007.001.0001

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Trade unions as professional associations

Trade unions as professional associations

(p.94) (p.95) 5 Trade unions as professional associations
Finding a Voice at Work?

Peter Ackers

Oxford University Press

Trade unions are central to the voice debate but they have declined globally over the last twenty-five years. This chapter argues that the true roots of successful trade unionism are widely misunderstood, due to a number of myths created by socialist and radical scholars. These suggest that unions are class organizations that arise directly from conflicts between employers and employees and advance through militant action. Even more subtle radical-pluralist analysis is influenced by this emphasis on coercive power. By contrast, a neopluralist view stresses the centrality of legitimacy power to trade unions and their long-term need to win support from their stakeholders: employees, employers, the state, and public opinion. Trade unions attract members not as general worker organizations but through the experience of an occupational identity linked to company, trade (craft), industry, and profession. A professionalization strategy that raises the status of occupations offers the best prospect for union renewal.

Keywords:   trade union, profession, occupation, craft, neopluralism, partnership, Marxist, history, sociology, power

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