Union Organizing, Mobilization, and Revitalization
The Case of the RMT
Routledge – 2013 – 200 pages
As trade union membership over the last two decades has stagnated or declined, serious questions have been raised about the adequacy of present union organizing strategies, particularly those that advocate ‘social partnership’ with employers. Yet the alternative pathway to the quest for union revitalization adopted by Britain’s National Union of Rail Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) – involving the rejection of accommodative forms of unionism in favor of collective resistance and strike mobilization, alongside a politically engaged form of left-wing trade unionism - has been much neglected by academics and practitioners alike, despite appearing to be more successful in terms of leveraging significant collective bargaining gains, the recruitment of thousands of new members and the reinvigoration of union organization. So why exactly are the national railway and London Underground networks so strike-prone, and to what extent is union militancy related to left-wing political activism? How should we assess the RMT’s adversarial approach relative to other unions in Britain, America, and elsewhere? What lessons does it hold in terms of current debates among industrial relations academics and practitioners about the efficacy of different union organizing strategies and the limits and potential for union revitalization?
In attempting to answer these questions, this book explores the relationship between union organizing, mobilization, and revitalization through the unique case study of Britain’s RMT – and drawing wider conclusions for unions around the globe. Analyzing in detail the RMT’s distinct organizing initiative aimed at recruiting new members and building the strength of the organization, Darlington re-evaluates the relationship between union militancy and left-wing political leadership. He also provides evidence to suggest the RMT’s strike mobilization and membership campaign approaches have been critical to the revitalization of the union in recent years. Finally, the book draws broader illuminating conclusions about the linkages between organizing, mobilizing, and revitalization with relevance to current global debates among industrial relations academics.
1. Introduction 2. Union Organising 3. Strike Mobilisation 4. Political Economy 5. Industrial Relations 6. Trade Unionism 7. Left-Wing Activism 8. Organising, Militancy and Revitalisation Appendix 1: RMT Membership Figures: 1988-2008 Appendix 2: National Rail Network: Strike Ballots and Action 1988-2008 Appendix 3: London Underground: Strike Ballots and Action 1988-2008 Appendix 4: Selected RMT Strike Votes: 1994-2008 References
Ralph Darlington is Professor of Employment Relations at Salburg Business School, University of Salburg and member of the Institute for Social, Cultural, and Policy Research and Management and Management Science Research Institute. He is contributor to Union Organizing: The Decline of a Dream (Routledge, 2008), and author of Syndicalism and the Transition to Communism (2008).