Labor Unions and Political Participation in Comparative Perspective

Source: Jasmine Kerrissey Evan Schofer, Social Forces, Advance Access, June 6, 2018
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From the abstract:
This research uses comparative survey data to examine the effects of labor union membership on individual political participation. We argue that national political institutions—specifically, democracy and corporatism—shape the ways that unions mobilize their members to engage in the political sphere. Democratic regimes provide structural opportunities and cultural repertoires that lead unions to focus on member mobilization, especially via contentious politics and political parties. Corporatism, which directly links unions to state structures, undercuts the logics and incentives for union mobilization. We draw upon historical cases of Germany, the United States, Chile, and Egypt to illustrate how democracy and corporatism shape unions’ mobilization efforts. Multilevel models of World Values Survey data from roughly 60 countries find that union members participate more than non-members across a range of electoral and extra-institutional political acts, such as demonstrating, occupying buildings, signing petitions, party work, and so forth. In democratic societies, such effects are stronger and participation shifts toward parties and contentious politics. In less democratic societies, union members are particularly likely to work with and through other political organizations. Corporatist arrangements generally dampen the political activities of union members.