Bellemare, Guy

Gosselin, Éric

Harisson, Denis
Laplante, Normand
Paquet, Renaud
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Renaud Paquet

Why do people get involved in local union office ?

Renaud Paquet & Isabelle Roy

In the last two decades, public sector labor relations have been characterized by privatization, service cuts and ad hoc legislations suspending negotiation rights. In this new environment, it seems crucial for public sector unions to build strength among their membership and to recruit volunteers to lead their local unions. Keeping this practical concern in mind, the research proposes an explanatory model of participation in local union leadership position. Based on social psychology theory, the model suggests that participation in local union leadership depends on an individual's attitude towards the union, on the social norm and on that individual's work related and psychological needs. Participation is also associated to other variables such as seniority, gender and employment status. The model was tested in a Canadian public sector union.

This research first leads us to conclude that involvement in union leadership is, foremost, a question of conviction reflected in our analysis by union attitude. One has to be utterly convinced of the importance of the cause in order to devote each month a certain number of hours to service his colleagues. Among workers who hold these convictions, those who have been employed for a longer period of time and who manifest a lesser degree of job satisfaction will have a greater propensity in becoming union officers. Social norm and personal needs emanating from personality traits will add to this propensity. Workers that take upon the role of union officers will do so mainly because of their concern for the well-being of their co-workers and following encouragements provided by their peers. Finally, women and employees with precarious employment status will tend to become less involved in union leadership probably (to a large extent) because of the role attributed to these functions.

Such conclusions bring forth both a theoretical and a practical interest. It has become clear that the models pertaining to member participation in union activities need to be adapted if it is to analyse adequately participation for a union officer. From a theoretical viewpoint, the influence of variables such as job satisfaction and social norm will differ whether we are studying a particular form of union participation or another. Hence, the influence of social norm drops from being a solid predictor of member participation to a weaker level of significance as a predictor of participation as an officer. By comparing the two different forms of participation, the influence of job satisfaction differs as well. In the first instance, we have a determining influence of general satisfaction and in the second instance, the stronger influence belongs to intrinsic satisfaction and satisfaction towards management.

PAQUET, Renaud et Isabelle ROY (1998), "Why Do People Get Involved in Local Union Office", Journal of Collective Negotiation in the Public Sector, vol. 27, n° 1,
pages 63-77.

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