Disconnected Spaces: Introducing Environmental Perspectives into the Trade Union Agenda Top-Down and Bottom-up

Monday, 11 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 16 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Nora RATHZEL, Umeå University, Department of Sociology, Sweden
Ragnar LUNDSTROM, Umea University, Department of Sociology, Sweden
David UZZELL, School of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, United Kingdom
Our paper compares how visions for integrating environmental issues into the union agenda are articulated from two different positions in the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO), the position of a shop steward and the position of an official unionist, responsible for environmental policies at the top of the union. The basis of the analysis are ‘life history interviews’ and it directs attention to the biographical circumstances under which individuals are able to work with environmental issues in unions. The analysis shows that the conditions for integrating environmental issues are weakened by the hierarchical culture of the organisation and by the high levels and forms of institutionalisation. LO furthermore lacks routines for mobilising the interests of environmental enthusiasts. Being positioned at headquarters hampers the abilities of union officials to mobilise environmental interests among members. Comparing the experiences from Sweden with the case of Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) in Spain shows that success depends on a relationship between individual engagement and political conjunctures. Union transformation is contingent on developing issues that connect the immediate interests of workers with their long-term interests as citizens, such that a new workers’ identity can develop and lead to practices that overcome the ‘metabolic rift’.