Edited By Heather Connolly, Lefteris Kretsos and Craig Phelan
Craig Phelan: The Future of European Unions: Radical Prospects?
Craig Phelan The Future of European Unions: Radical Prospects? Introduction Europe is the birthplace of trade unionism. It is here that the earliest trade unions emerged from craft guilds and later mutual aid societies. As early as the sixteenth century craftsmen in small shops banded together in fraternal associations to define and protect their skills, to enforce apprenticeship rules, to discuss politics and other weighty matters, and to cease work when their perceived rights and privileges were challenged (Chase, 2000). From the early nineteenth century, when modern trade unionism took shape, until the present day, trade unionism has been a mainstay of European economic and political history, arguably the most significant progressive force in civil society in all corners of the European continent. The ‘business unions’ that represented occupational rather than class interests and battled at the workplace against recalcitrant employers to secure better wages and working conditions; the ‘welfare unions’ that organised along class rather than occupation lines with their often radical political and social goals; the ‘social partner’ unions that participated in tripartite bodies in an effort to define national labour and social policies that would benefit all citizens – it is here in Europe that all variations of trade unionism were first seen. Europe is where trade unionism was first conceived to be something much more than economistic institutions to determine wages and work- ing conditions for their own members. It is here that intellectuals and ideologues first saw that trade unionism could potentially be transform- ative and...
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