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.
Two Logics of Trade Union Representation
Organizing Matters demonstrates the interplay between two distinct logics of labour’s collective action: on the one hand, workers coming together, usually at their place of work, entrusting the union to represent their interests and, on the other hand, social bargaining in which the trade union constructs labour’s interests from the top down. The book investigates the tensions and potential complementarities between the two logics through the combination of a strong theoretical framework and an extensive qualitative case study of trade union organizing and recruitment in four countries – Austria, Germany, Israel and the Netherlands. These countries still utilize social-wide bargaining but find it necessary to draw and develop strategies transposed from Anglo-American countries in response to continuously declining membership.