Mobilizing Union Membership: A Case Study of the Gap Between Membership in Unions and Identification with the Labor Movement.
Sanders, Lindsay L.
- This undergraduate honors thesis is a case study of personal care attendants who are members of the healthcare union SEIU 1199 in Boston. Six homecare workers and one organizer were interviewed using grounded research methodology to build theory about the gap between membership in a union and participation in a labor movement. Through listening to workers speak about their jobs and relationship ... read morewith the union, the researcher found that PCAs have outstandingly positive feedback of the union’s performance, but that they are not taking ownership of it. While unions are tasked with many contradictory yet interdependent goals, including building membership and bargaining contracts, this paper highlights the importance of mobilizing that membership into a broad, community driven, sustainable, and offensive working class movement. We set a high standard in our definition of success: a union’s ability to engender its membership with a strong understanding of the union’s long-term goals; participation in a range of union activities; a higher level of political efficacy and civic engagement than when they joined the union; drawing connections between their experiences under capitalism and other related struggles, and solidarity with these causes; participating in community or political activity without the prompting of the union; and having and voicing opinions about union activity. Despite positive reviews from their membership and an organizational director with a strong vision and strategy, 1199 has been unable to overcome the pervasive external factors of capitalism and the site-specific external factors of an atomized industry due to insufficient organizational relationships with more than one union organizer, other PCAs, and workplace leaders; failure to select and train delegates as leaders and delegate actual power; insufficient politically educational contacts with membership; limited democratic participation by membership; and lack of urgency among members.read less