Inclusive unionism: Strategies for retaining idealism in the Service Employees International Union

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Industrial Relations, 2019, 61 (1), pp. 33 - 56
Issue Date:
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© 2018, Australian Labour and Employment Relations Association (ALERA), SAGE Publications Ltd, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC. Despite the vast amount of scholarship covering the progressive turn in unions in the US and in Europe and a widespread recognition that it has been driven by the staff working for reformed unions there has been no examination of the causes, beliefs, and identities that new generations of staff bring into the labor movement. The question asked in this article is how personal projects – defined as a motivational narrative for social action – held by progressively minded union staff can impact inclusiveness in unions. A key focus is how staff's personal projects interact with organizational structures and practices. The study finds that personal projects vary in terms of the way that staff construct role boundaries in their jobs to invest more in certain roles than, others which also affected their investment in skills development. These strategies have theoretical implications for understanding the nexus between staff careers and organizational outcomes in unions in particular and in ‘social movement organizations’ more generally. Results also have practical implications for skills development and knowledge transfers within and across organizations, as well as for union capacities to deal with competing goals.
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