Recent trends in union membership – don’t believe everything you think!

by VanessaVaile

New Unionism Network blog

1The usual story begins sometime in the late ’70s. Cue violins. Besotto voce: The rise of neoliberalism — as personified by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher — signalled the beginning of the end for trade unionism. Since then, unions have experienced rapid and relentless decline. Right? Union officials have spent the last forty years trying to turn a rout into a retreat.

The trouble with this dominant narrative is that, according to the best data we have available, it is wrong for most countries. In this paper Peter Hall-Jones looks at how our perspective has been skewed by the experience of a relatively small number of post-industrial nations. The real story is far more interesting and instructive. It also suggests a positive way forward. Rather than running trade unions as ailing small businesses, we should be building cooperation along supply chains.

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