Rescuing ‘the Danish Model’: Immigrant Representation in Union Revitalisation Efforts

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Mai LUNDEMARK, Uppsala university, Sweden
Danish unionism is amongst the strongest in the world in terms of union density, collective agreement coverage and influence on labour market regulations. Nonetheless, decline in union membership and influence make scholars question the perseverance of the Danish collective agreement system and the broader notion of the ‘Danish model’, which are considered fundamental for the Danish welfare system. To remedy the downturn in union memberships, several unions have imported ideas from the American and British ‘organizing turn’ as means to revitalisation. Previous research has shown that revitalisation strategies, such as organizing, emphasise rank-and-file empowerment and the inclusion of migrant and ethnic minority workers’ needs. Such research has mainly been conducted in union hostile environments and in countries with long histories of net-immigration. In contrast, little is known about whether and how union revitalisation is inclusive of migration-driven diversity in countries new to net-immigration, with high labour standards and with collective agreement systems based on consensus. Taking Denmark as an empirical example of the latter, this paper aims to fill the gap and asks: how do union officials and organizers make sense of immigrant workers’ (lack of) representation in union revitalisation efforts? To answer this question, the meaning and construction of representation will be scrutinized as well as intersections of race, nation and citizenship and class. The empirical material will consist of union policy documents, descriptive statistics of shop stewards, and interviews with union officials and organizers from two major unions in Denmark. By combining industrial relations research with theory on race and representation, the paper aspires to contribute theoretically to the research fields of labour union revitalization, integration and welfare state studies.