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Workers, Collectivism and the Law

Grappling with Democracy

Laura Carlson

Workers, Collectivism and the Law offers a captivating historical account of worker democracy, from its beginnings in European guild systems to present-day labor unions, across the national legal systems of Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. Analysing these legal systems in light of a Habermasian concept of participatory democracy, Laura Carlson identifies ways to strengthen individual employee voice in claims against employers.
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Chapter 10: Employee voice in Sweden

Laura Carlson


The Swedish labor law model is very focused on the social partners and collective solutions to labor market issues. Union members have no statutory rights with respect to the unions, and no voice with respect to employers except through the unions or litigation. Elaborate procedures have been in place concerning the negotiations between the social partners, with extensive rights as to industrial action and “sympathy” or secondary actions lawful. The trends with respect to low damage awards and the relatively higher attorneys’ costs and fees create a significant deterrent for individuals to pursue employment grievances. Litigation is arguably not an affordable option for most individual plaintiffs, particularly in cases of employment grievances with respect to hirings or firings, where individuals are likely to be unemployed.

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