This topic Union Participation will consider membership commitment and participation. Union member attitudes and beliefs and their relationship to member involvement will be discussed. An examination of member commitment factors will be examined. Union environment including, culture and leadership, will be reviewed.
Union officers and activists are constantly concerned about member participation. All too often this concern relates to a “lack” of member participation. Union officers when describing their membership use words like, apathetic, complacent, or uninterested. There is a constant worry among union leadership about getting union member to participate in local union activities. Let’s take a look at types of union participation. Hopefully, it is the goal of any local union to gain maximum member participation both formally and informally. We are going to take a look at two types of member participation. First we’ll look at formal participation, and then informal participation. Formal participation by a member is usually sustained and regular such as holding an office, like a member of the executive board serving as the President, Secretary or Treasurer. It can be a member serving on committees such as the negotiation committee or grievance committee. Another example of formal participation can be a Steward or Chief Steward whose function is to enforce the collective bargaining agreement. It can include members engaged a political campaign for a union endorsed candidate or ballot measure. Members working on an organizing campaign are also considered engaged in formal union activity. Proportionately, all to often, union members engaged in formal union activities usually make up a small percentage of the total local union membership. Now let’s take a look at less formal activities that are typically intermittent
Members attending general membership union meetings are considered less formal activities, albeit intermittently, since this type of meeting is usually held once per month. Union officers are often excited when union meeting attendance has significant numbers, especially if it is a routine business meeting. Other intermittent activities include voting in union elections, voting on the contract, or walking a picket line. These are all important member activities even though they do not occur on a frequent basis.
Informal member participation differs from formal activity in that informal action by members is unstructured but supportive. For example a member that speaks in defense and in support of their union they are in fact engaging in a form of informal union activity. A union member that is not serving in formal capacity may also engage in an informal activity by explaining the contract to a new hire. A union member advising a fellow union member how the union may help is another example of informal activity. The important point is that participation, both formally and informally, needs to be maximized within the local union if it is to become strong and effective. Now that we have examined the types of participation members may engage in their local union we’ll now begin to take a look at member behavior and its relationship to their attitude towards the union.
Members can engage in supportive union behaviors that are not formal or structured. These behaviors are referred to as “Union Citizenship Behaviors.” While these behaviors may not be so noticeable the sum of individual members’ participation will have a tremendous impact on the effectiveness of the union. Research has shown that unions will have greater success by encouraging members to participate in less formal activities. The reason success is more likely is because members feel there are less barriers or qualifications associated with less formal activities. The key ingredient of a strong and effective union is a membership that overwhelmingly exercises supportive behaviors.
Union citizenship behaviors are determined by two factors, the individual’s characteristics, and second, the environment in which the individual engages. Membership participation is a form of behavior. This behavior can be the member’s participation or non-participation – which is a behavior, albeit statically. Union leaders have very little influence over an individual’s characteristics. However, the union does have some control over individual characteristics of the union member’s union environment. If a union is to influence its members’ behavior it must concentrate its efforts on the members’ attitudes and beliefs about the union. A union has the most control over its own environment.
Let’s begin go take a look at how unions can build a strong and effective union. As it was stated earlier the union should focus on members’ attitudes and beliefs about the union environment. Attitudes can be positive or negative. If a member’s attitude toward the union is positive it is likely this person is supportive and engaged in either or both formal and informal activities of the union. On the other hand if the union member has a negative attitude towards the union this member is usually disengaged from union activities and often will speak negatively about the union. If a union is to influence a member’s attitude in a positive way the union must create and environment that rewards participation in, and support of the union. The union should encourage the kind of behavior that will benefit the union.
This illustration loosely based on the textbook figure 2.2 points out the relationship that exists between union member attitudes and the union environment and union member behaviors. A member’s union environment could for example be a very democratic environment, meaning the union practices effective democratic principles and acts transparently. This would be the environment, a democratic environment. This in all likelihood would help shape the union member’s attitude to be positive. This positive attitude in turn will affect the union member’s behavior. The union member will be likely engaged in union activities in an industrious and supportive way. Now consider the union also recognizes and honors the member for their support and activities. This reward and recognition further adds to the positive attitude of the member. However, consider the opposite situation. The union is secretive, does nothing to encourage member involvement, it promotes a culture of insiders, it does little if anything to engage members in union activities and fails to recognize those who do. These actions also have consequences, a negative attitude of its members.
Individuals are not born with attitudes or beliefs they are acquired. Attitudes and beliefs about unions, generally and specifically are also acquired. A person’s specific attitude towards their union is a product of their experiences with their specific union. General attitudes about unions as whole a may be generated by sources that include family, friends, co-workers, religious organizations, schools, and the media. It is most likely if a person grows up in a household where unions are positively reinforced that person will emerge into the workforce with a positive attitude towards unions in general. Their attitude about a specific union is usually shaped by their own personal experiences and observations of their union, as well as someone they respect and look up to in the workplace where the union exists. Reshaping an attitude calls for new experiences that will foster a new and positive attitude. This will require the union to act and operate in a manner that not only maintains the positive attitude among the members where a positive attitude already exists but also to act deliberately in converting negative attitudes towards positive attitudes.
Significant research has been conducted in the last twenty years that has focused on the attitudes of members and potential members towards unions. The research focused on general and specific attitudes and the impacts of these attitudes on unions. The research examined members’ general attitudes concerning, if unions play a positive role in society; that unions can deliver on issues of importance to the members; satisfaction with union performance and union-member relations; feelings about their early experiences in a union; views of the operation and effectiveness of the grievance procedure; and opinions about the leadership. The research found that a wide variety of attitudes and opinions ultimately lead to a broader attitude know as union member commitment. In no surprise the research found that individuals that are more satisfied with their union’s performance were more supportive and committed to their union based on their positive experiences. This stands in contrast to those who encountered negative experiences with their union that resulted in a negative attitude and unsupportive behavior. Those that were satisfied the most had a positive attitude and were the most committed. This positive attitude was manifested as a result of union effectiveness (performance), positive experiences with union officials, effective operation of the grievance procedure, and a positive experience in the first year of association with the union.
Member commitment is based on a member’s desire to be bound to the union and a strong desire to remain a member of the union. Member Commitment is the member’s willingness to exert high levels of effort on behalf of the union. Member commitment is the individuals definite believe in unions and their acceptance of the union goals and values. Member commitment can be examined in four facets: union loyalty; responsibility to the union; willingness to work on behalf of the union; and the member’s general belief in unions.
The first facet is union loyalty. This is a member that reflects a high degree of loyalty, takes pride in their association with the union and has a clear awareness of the benefits of the union.
The second facet is responsibility to the union. This is a member that recognizes and is willing to fulfill the day-to-day obligations and duties of the union and protects the interests of the union. This member is willing to keep members informed and will file grievances.
The third facet is a member that willing to work on behalf of the union on a more sustained basis such as serving as a union officer, serving on the negotiation committee, engaged as a union’s political activist, or coordinating internal organizing activities.
The last or fourth facet of member commitment is a belief in unionism in general. This member has a deep seated belief about and positive attitude towards unions. This is a member that strongly supports unions and actively and consistently participates in union activities and actions.
Members that have high levels of commitment are more likely to participate in union activities such as meetings, rallies, and elections. Highly committed members are more likely to support bargaining demands and and participate in concerted activities including a strike. These members are more likely to support political action and support candidates endorsed by the union. This type participation by a member is considered a union “behavior” which is directly and indirectly related to the member’s commitment that is most likely tied to the member’s positive attitude. Remember union commitment is an attitude. Union participation is a behavior. Since commitment is closely tied to attitude the greater the number of members that have high levels of commitment the more likely they are to participate. High levels of participation is essential if a union is to be effective.
A 1989 study found that general attitudes about unions center around two areas, big labor image and union instrumentality. This study examined the viewpoints of people about big labor. These viewpoints included a close look at big labor leadership. It examined the extent to which people view unions and union leaders as self interested, opposed to change, autocratic, opposed to change and overly focused on politics. Another component of the study included union instrumentality. Instrumentality is the perception by a person of the big labor to give the member’s its money’s worth for the dues they pay. Comments with in this study included, “I have a bias against unions. My father worked for a company that was out of business by a union strike. Since then I have been down on unions.” Another comment stated, “I have never liked unions; all they do is start trouble.” A more positive view was shared, “Unions are the only one fighting for the little man; where would we be without them.” Each of these comments are attitudinal comments made in general about unions. Research has found general beliefs are often deep rooted and once in place are not easily changed.
This chart displays the public’s attitude towards unions in general in 1997. As you can see 64% of those surveyed believe the unions play an important role in worker’s pay. However, 31% do not, which is a substantial percentage. The survey also shows that 57% unions go to far in protecting workers who are incompetent or inefficient with 36% believing unions do not go to far.
Attitudes toward a specific union are different than attitudes towards unions in general. This attitude is derived from the experiences of the member with the union that represents or is attempting to represent the worker. A member may have a unfavorable attitude towards unions in general but based on positive experiences with their current union they lean favorably in attitudes toward their specific union. Their beliefs are broken into three categories, instrumentality, union satisfaction, and perceived union support. Instrumentality refers to the extent a member believes in their union’s ability to make gains for the workers. Satisfaction attitudes are rooted in the member’s confidence, or lack thereof, in the their union’s representational efforts. Member satisfaction attitude also manifests itself from the member’s perception of their unions ability to make gains at the bargaining table, leadership’s efforts to keep members informed, member’s getting a say in how their union is run, and leadership being responsive to the needs of the members. Member attitudes are also developed locally based on how leadership values members’ contributions and the care leadership shows for the well being of its members. Research has found evidence that a strong positive relationships exists between members’ perceptions of union support and their levels of commitment to the union. Members who perceive the union is committed to them feel a an obligation to be committed to the union.
Lets take a look at this chart which demonstrates the relationship that exist between general and specific attitudes and the outcomes of member commitment (attitudes) and member participation (behavior). General and specific attitudes towards unions can be either negative or positive. If the member’s attitude is positive in both categories, based on their beliefs and experiences, the member is more likely to be committed to, and participate in, union activities. If a union member is possesses a negative attitude toward unions in general then it becomes absolutely necessary for the local union to shape the member’s attitude positively if it is to expect the member’s commitment and participation in local activities. This effort may also result in reshaping the attitude of the union member’s attitude in general as well. The member must believe the union is effective in satisfying the interest of its member’s and strongly supports its members. Without these ingredients member commitment is unlikely.
General and specific attitudes towards unions contribute to a more comprehensive attitude called union commitment. The member’s attitude will significantly influence the member’s decision to whether to act on those beliefs. The length that a member is willing to participate with energy and enthusiasm will have a significant impact on the union’s effectiveness. These participatory activities, among others, include supporting organizing, bargaining, grievance handling, and political and community actions. As the illustration demonstration a chain of events can occur that sets the union towards its goal of being strong and effective. Members make a commitment to the union based on their positive beliefs or attitude about the union. This commitment then leads to their participation. This is a behavior, a union citizenship behavior. This behavior deriving from commitment and participation, when multiplied by other members participation, will lead to union effectiveness.
Union Participationrev Ol
Building Strong Unions Union Participation
Formal Participation <ul><li>Regular Formal Activity </li></ul><ul><li>Holding union office </li></ul><ul><li>Serving on a committee </li></ul><ul><li>Working on a political campaign </li></ul><ul><li>Working on an organizing committee </li></ul>
Intermittent Formal <ul><li>Attending a union meeting </li></ul><ul><li>Voting for officers </li></ul><ul><li>Voting on the contract </li></ul><ul><li>Walking a picket line </li></ul>
Informal Participation <ul><li>Characterized as unstructured, supportive, informal activities </li></ul><ul><li>Speaking up in defense of union </li></ul><ul><li>Discussing contract with new hire </li></ul><ul><li>Advising members how union helps </li></ul>
Union Citizenship Behaviors (UCB) <ul><li>Sum of Individual members’ informal participation </li></ul><ul><li>Significant impact on union effectiveness </li></ul><ul><li>Unions have greater success engaging members in less formal types of participation </li></ul><ul><li>Fewer barriers of associated qualification </li></ul><ul><li>Often require less time commitment </li></ul>
UCB <ul><ul><li>Characteristics of the individual </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Environment in which the individual operates </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Member Participation is a form of behavior </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Affected by attitude and/or beliefs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Member may choose not to participate </li></ul></ul>
Building a Strong Union <ul><li>Focus on member attitudes and beliefs </li></ul><ul><li>Create an environment within union </li></ul><ul><li>Encourages and rewards participation </li></ul><ul><li>Encourages and rewards support </li></ul><ul><li>Encourages behavior that benefits the union </li></ul>
Attitudes and Beliefs <ul><li>Individuals not born with attitudes and beliefs </li></ul><ul><li>Product of experiences </li></ul><ul><li>Information received from sources </li></ul><ul><li>New experiences can reshape attitude </li></ul><ul><li>Foster new attitudes </li></ul>
Union Member Commitment <ul><li>Most Satisfied – Positive Attitude – About Union </li></ul><ul><li>Satisfied – most committed </li></ul><ul><li>Union performance </li></ul><ul><li>Treatment by union officials </li></ul><ul><li>Operation of grievance procedure </li></ul><ul><li>First year experience with union was positive </li></ul>
Member Commitment <ul><li>Four Parts </li></ul><ul><li>Union Loyalty </li></ul><ul><li>Responsibility to Union </li></ul><ul><li>Willingness to work on behalf of Union </li></ul><ul><li>General belief in unionism </li></ul>
Loyalty <ul><li>Reflects a high degree of loyalty </li></ul><ul><li>Takes pride in association with union </li></ul><ul><li>Have clear awareness of benefits of membership </li></ul>
Responsibility to Union <ul><li>Recognize and be willing to fulfill day-to-day obligations </li></ul><ul><li>Keeping union members informed </li></ul><ul><li>Filing grievances </li></ul>
Willingness to work <ul><li>Serve as union officer </li></ul><ul><li>Serve on negotiation committee </li></ul><ul><li>Serve as political action activist </li></ul><ul><li>Coordinate internal organizing activities </li></ul>
Belief in Unionism <ul><li>Believes in unionism in general </li></ul><ul><li>Deep seated positive attitude towards unions </li></ul><ul><li>Strongly supports the unions </li></ul><ul><li>Actively and consistently participates </li></ul>
Commitment and Participation <ul><li>Union commitment is an attitude </li></ul><ul><li>Union participation is a behavior </li></ul><ul><li>Commitment closely tied to attitude </li></ul><ul><li>High level of commitment </li></ul><ul><li>More likely to participate </li></ul><ul><li>High levels of participation lead to more effective union </li></ul>
Big Labor Attitude <ul><li>View of union and union leaders </li></ul><ul><li>Self Interested </li></ul><ul><li>Opposed to change </li></ul><ul><li>Autocratic </li></ul><ul><li>Opposed to change </li></ul><ul><li>Overly focused on politics </li></ul>
Describes Does not Unions play an important role in ensuring workers’ pay is fair and equitable 64% 31% 5% Don’t Know Unions go too far in protecting workers who are incompetent or inefficient Describes Does not Don’t know 57% 36% 7% Source: USA Today labor “Workers Assess Conditions, Unions, Pay,” 1997
Specific Union Attitudes <ul><li>Attitudes about specific union may different </li></ul><ul><li>Members’ view of their representative union </li></ul><ul><li>Grouped into three dimensions </li></ul><ul><li>Instrumentality </li></ul><ul><li>Satisfaction </li></ul><ul><li>Perceived union support </li></ul>
Impact of Specific and General Attitudes on Union Commitment General Attitudes about Unions - Big Labor Image - Instrumentality <ul><li>Specific Attitudes about Unions </li></ul><ul><li>Instrumentality </li></ul><ul><li>Satisfaction </li></ul><ul><li>- Perceived Support </li></ul>Member Commitment Attitudes Member Participation Behavior
Model of Member Participation Member Commitment (Attitudes) Union Environment (Culture, Leadership ) Member Participation (Behavior) Union Effectiveness
Conclusion <ul><li>This concludes the lecture. </li></ul>