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Labour Protest in Poland

Trade Unions and Employee Interest Articulation After Socialism

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Michał Wenzel

This book is an account of protests organized by trade unions from the late socialism to the 21 st century. It uses protest event analysis and mass surveys to examine the impact of trade unions on institutions before and after systemic change. Social protest in the post-war Poland was primarily a working-class phenomenon. Unionized employees were able to influence transformation processes in many ways: directly in enterprises, politically via their representatives in parties, and indirectly by creating a public opinion sympathetic with their goals. Individual chapters contain theoretical assumptions, an overview of employee protest under state socialism, the dynamics of trade union membership, and a detailed description of trade union protest activities after systemic change. A comparison between protest dynamics in Poland and in Hungary serves as illustration of legacies of negotiated transition on social mobilization.
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4. Overview of Labour Protest in 1989–2011

Extract



The main thread of the book is the dynamic of labour protests: how they originated, what they achieved under the former system, which elements (methods, demands, mobilization strategies) were replicated in the new system, and how effective they were. At the beginning of the transformation, Poland had a substantial tradition of strikes and labour unrest. This legacy was instrumental in bringing about the systemic change. The purpose of the empirical part of the book is to show how unions faced the challenges transformation posed for them and their members. This chapter is the first in of the sequence of analyses constituting the core empirical section of the book. It contains an overview of union protest events taking place in Poland in the years 1989–2011. All events of spontaneous, non-conventional activity in the whole country are included in the analysis. Such a sweeping statement has to be made with several caveats. First of all, the employed method of data collection registers events that were recorded in the public domain: in national newspapers. Secondly, the working definition of an event is fairly broad. It follows a “wide net” philosophy, trying to capture all events at the risk of including those which may imperfectly match it, rather than aiming at empirical purity. Detailed description of methodology is contained in the annex.

Magnitude

Two measures are used to gauge the magnitude of protest activity: the number of protest events, and the number of days of protest. Duration...

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