The freedom of association is enshrined in international conventions and state constitutions, and it has triumphed in many statutes and judicial decisions around the world. Association in the labour context can be viewed as yet another fulfilment of the general freedom to associate, as are the association of shareholders, political party members, social clubs or social movements. However, it is also regarded as a unique right that constitutes a central pillar for governing the labour market; a right intended to achieve goals such as equality, emancipation and dignity. Within the domains of this interpretation, it has been argued that the logic of association on labour’s side is different from that on capital’s side (Offe and Wiesenthal 1980). This book goes further, to argue there are two distinct logics of association on labour’s side, and as the title suggests – two logics of trade union representation. The one logic is that of workers coming together, acting to fight for their rights. The other logic is that of trade unions and employers’ associations, sometimes together with high-ranking officials of the state, negotiating labour market conditions. In both logics, membership is essential for the status, functioning and efficacy of the trade union. This is the unifying feature of both logics, singling out trade unions from other forms of association with similar objectives. Hence, the pivotal reference for understanding that the two logics of labour’s collective action is centred on membership. However, membership and its derivative traits – democracy, accountability, power and legitimacy – work in different ways.
Browse by title
Two Logics of Trade Union Representation
Edited by Jeff Kenner, Izabela Florczak and Marta Otto
Janice R. Bellace and Beryl ter Haar
Virginia Leary once observed a curious phenomenon: that labour law and human rights law are on parallel tracks that rarely cross. This phenomenon is unexpected because some of the most obvious violations of individuals’ human rights, for instance, slave labour or child labour, occur when they are working. But until recently many human rights scholars veered off and focused on civil and political rights, all but ignoring rights that are violated when people are working. It is as if individuals, when they are viewed as workers, are compartmentalized, sealed off and cast to the side in human rights scholarship. This may result from the fact that some see labour law as governing work relationships and fail to consider the human rights dimensions of the employment or work arrangement. It may also result from the fact that those human rights scholars who focus on civil and political rights tend to see the State as the actor who violates the human rights of individuals, either directly or by failing to enforce the law or remedy violations. This is a very public law focus, and most employment and work relations are the subject of private law. Except when considering the most blatant situations (such as slavery), human rights scholars typically overlook how human rights guarantees affect people at work. This lack of consideration may be related to the fact that most employment and work relationships flow from an agreement by the worker to perform work in return for compensation.