During a presentation in Amsterdam, labour researcher Professor Jeremy Waddington told the story of a union activist who managed to raise density at his workplace from 5 to 15%, ‘sitting on his chair’. He had put a jar on his desk filled with candy wrapped in paper with a union logo. As a result, he was constantly talking about the union with his co-workers.
The story illustrates Waddington’s central message: if unions want to grow, they need to be accessible at the workplace. According to Waddington, there are three conditions for a successful organising campaign:
1. Work systematically. Set targets, monitor results, discuss them and adapt the campaign. Make sure that adequate resources are available for the campaign.
2. Target your efforts. A campaign may target a certain profession, a sector, a company (e.g., a Sif campaign targeting workers at Volvo plants) or a geographic area (e.g., British union Unite targeting workers within the M25, that is, greater London). The most important thing is to make a choice. If the campaign targets workplaces where the union already has a presence, it is important to map the workplace. Find out who are union members and which issues are important to workers. Address these issues in your campaign literature.
3. The role of workplace activists is crucial. Make sure they are adequately trained before the campaign is launched.
Waddington is a project co-ordinator with the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC)’s research institute and teaches International Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations at Manchester University. His activities include an extensive international survey among union members. Unions who are members of ETUC-affiliated organisations can participate in the survey if they are willing to reproduce and distribute the questionnaires; the analysis and reporting costs will be met by the ETUC.
Jeremy Waddington contact information