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Trade Union Revitalisation

Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries

Edited By Craig Phelan

Although trade unionism has been declining in virtually every part of the world, its continued demise is not a foregone conclusion. As it has throughout its history, trade unionism has demonstrated a capacity to adapt, to make its voice heard, to reassert its power. The scale and scope of experimentation taking place in the labour movement today is testimony not just to the depth of the crisis but also to the possibility of resurgence in the years ahead. This book is an essential resource for anyone wishing to know about contemporary labour issues. It offers a comprehensive introduction to the state of trade unionism in the world today, and the often innovative strategies and tactics trade unionists are using to revive their organisations in each of the major nations of the world. Leading labour scholars discuss, in clear prose, the health of the trade union movement, the present political and economic climate for trade union advancement, the dominant revitalisation strategies, and future prospects in each nation. Each chapter includes an up-to-date guide to further reading.


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Missed Opportunities and Forgotten Futures:Why Union Renewal in Canada Has Stalled 57


CHARLOTTE A.B. YATES Missed Opportunities and Forgotten Futures: Why Union Renewal in Canada Has Stalled 1. Introduction The Canadian labour movement is often painted as the jewel in the North American labour crown, having mobilised protests against neo- liberal governments and anti-union employers and maintained a sizeable membership base. Unions in Canada are confronted with an abundance of opportunities for renewal but a dearth of capacity in revitalising their influence over the Canadian political economy. The opportunities stem from relatively stable union density, an in- creasingly diverse membership, the amassing of considerable union resources and the emergence of pockets of militant mobilised sections of the workforce. Yet the Canadian labour movement’s lack of imagined alternatives for the future combined with its dysfunctional organisational structure hamper its ability to nurture these oppor- tunities into renewed power and influence. This chapter develops this argument, beginning first with a brief description of the state of the union movement in Canada and then moving on to discussions of the opportunities for renewal and the roots of the Canadian labour movement’s lack of capacity. Charlotte A.B. Yates 58 2. A Typically Canadian Labour Movement: Stable or Stagnant? Compared to union movements across much of the industrialised West, and especially the Anglo-American democracies, Canadian union membership and density have remained remarkably stable, drifting downward only over the last decade (Fairbrother and Yates 2003, chapter 1). Between 1995 and 2005, total union membership increased modestly from 4,003,000 to 4,381,000 although union density dropped...

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