Gregor Gall (ed.) The Future of Union Organising: Building for Tomorrow, Palgrave Macmillan: London, 2009; 261 pp.: 978-0230222427 60 [pounds sterling] (hbk)
Union Revitalisation in Advanced Economies: Assessing the Contribution of Union Organising, Palgrave Macmillan: London, 2009; 225 pp.: 9780230204393 55 [pounds sterling] (hbk)
These two edited volumes contain rich and varied accounts of union organising strategies and their impact, as well as seeking to locate the debates both more conceptually and also within a broader economic and political context. In doing so, Gall provides two succinct and invaluable introductions to wide ranging sets of chapters that are almost inevitably uneven and at times repetitive, but also, at their best, essential reading in an important debate. Indeed, it is a debate that Gall and some of his contributors regard as 'pivotal' and the 'only game in town'--although whether the unions are capable of playing and the potential of their strategies for winning are the key questions of the two volumes.
The books work at a number of different levels and seek to provide theoretical and conceptual arguments, alongside country overviews and case studies of sectors, industries, workplaces and individual unions. While its contributors are mainly academics, it is to be welcomed that each volume contains prescient chapters by two people actively engaged in delivering organising outcomes (Michael Crosby from the Change to Win Organising Centre, and Paul Nowak from the UK TUC). The Future of Union Organising aims to identify 'best' and 'better' practice and draws from a range of country examples (12 of its 14 chapters, including three from Ireland and two each from the USA and Australia). The 'Revitalisation' volume also seeks to contribute to 'guiding successful practice', but has a less international perspective and more of a focus on the conceptual arguments and case studies from the UK as well as three country overviews. Sectoral analyses in the two volumes take us from Irish mushroom workers via the sex industry, through both public and private sectors and into case study examples of individual union campaigns such as the RMT, and yes as well as SEIU and UNITE. The volumes also feature chapters characterised by both quantitative and qualitative research methods, broader literature reviews and data analysis from surveys and case studies.
Where does this all leave the reader? Certainly better informed and helpfully guided by the two excellent introductions, but still picking their way through a mass of detail and what can...