UNIONS, PLANTS, JOBS, AND WORKERS: An Analysis of Union Satisfaction and Participation

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The relationship between unions and their members is an important, yet neglected, subject in recent studies of the sociology of work. This study develops and tests a theory of union satisfaction and participation that combines recent research in the sociology of work with previous explanations of union satisfaction and participation provided by industrial relations researchers, in an attempt to understand the relationship between unions, plants, jobs, and workers in U.S. manufacturing industries. This theory predicts that union members will be satisfied with their unions and participate more in them if there are extensive ties between workers, employers, and unions. These ties stem from the focus of labor/management relations in particular, and class struggles in general, on market outcomes and the historical linkage of union membership with employment in the United States. The theory also predicts that unions them‐selves act as ties to specific work settings and that union participation is a forum for voicing dissatisfaction with specific characteristics of workers' jobs. Testing these predictions is complicated by contradictory nature of the structure and organization of work in advanced industrial societies. The analysis provides qualified support for this theory, with data drawn from more unions, plants, and union members than have been used to date. In addition to discussing modifications to the theory and analysis presented here, the study includes a discussion of its implications for the future of unionization and the organization of work, in light of declines in union membership, increased efforts to decertify unions and resist union organizing efforts, and deindustrialization in the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-362
Number of pages32
JournalSociological Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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