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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 12: Voice, democracy, and collectivism in the different systems

Laura Carlson


Beginning with the premise that procedural guarantees for union members with regard to labor union decisions—in particular, responsiveness and the interests protected in line with Habermas’ procedural concept of democracy—create legitimacy within existing labor law structures, this work has examined the labor law models of the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, and the United States. What the history of worker collectivism reveals is that procedural due process has always been a component, but perhaps not always expressly articulated, in worker collectivism since the time of the early guilds. Solidarity, equality, and mutual aid have been ever present, to various degrees and in different forms. A way forward is to consciously build on and strengthen procedural democracy for union members, through legal protections as to transparency and procedural due process for union members. Given the greater focus today on human rights in the labor law context, the mechanisms necessary to invoke these rights need to be in place to give them effect.

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