Theory & Struggle

Who will organise the unorganised?

A review of ‘mainstream’ trade union strategies for renewal, and the emergence of ‘new’ unions and collective form

Theory & Struggle (2019), 120, (1), 112–123.

Abstract

This article notes the historical development of trade unions as secondary organisations, a response by workers to the capitalist mode of organising work. It gives a brief explanation of the decline of ‘mainstream’ trade union membership before providing an account of trade union responses and attempts at renewal. The article considers the emergence of new unions and other initiatives, and the strategic choices faced by unions and those wanting to organise the many unorganised workers in the economy. It concludes that, unless the organs of mainstream unions can adapt and evolve to enable some back-to-basics organising that will meet the challenges of the contemporary political economy, then the foundations are being laid for the development of new unions in some sectors and new crossunion structures.

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Details

Author details

MacNeil, Michael