Swedish Trade Unions’ Alliances - Geographical strategies and motivations
Workers’ agency, and their struggles to potentially increase their agency, has been and still is intriguing labour geographers. The relevance and potential of the role of the trade union for workers’ power is an interesting subject in a time of international competition and economic disparities. The aim of the study is to contribute to an increased understanding of the geographical dimensions of labour agency in relation to current socio-political challenges, by studying the character of and motivations behind Swedish trade unions’ national and international alliances. To accomplish the aim of this study the following research questions are to be answered: - With what types of organizations, and using which geographical strategies, are Swedish trade unions partaking in alliances? - With what types of organizations, and using which geographical strategies, are Swedish trade unions participating in actions? - What justifications motivate Swedish trade unions’ different alliances and joint actions? Of importance for answering the research questions have been theories and concepts regarding agency, geographical strategies and moral justice, to help explain motivations behind workers’ alliances and actions. To study the qualities of the trade unions’ alliances and actions a critical study of the trade unions’ websites and documents, and interviews with key informants were conducted. The study objects were ten Swedish trade unions, chosen based on qualities judged to be of relevance to get a spread in answers to these questions – size, national confederation, if sector specific and if subject to competitiveness internationally. The geography of Swedish trade union alliances and actions seem to reflect that recruiting and organizing is important, as are international alliances and solidarity. International alliances and actions might serve both to keep workers informed and to gain strength by numbers, as well as to counteract e.g. social dumping and mirror the transnationalism of capital. There is often a discrepancy between competitive and solidarity goals within the union, but this appears not to be problematized. The size of a trade union matter for its ability to enter alliances, and a strong ideology matters for the ability to find compatible organizations to co-operate with. A trade union’s sectors’ level of international competition appears to matter for their participation in competitive alliances – more competition means more alliances entered to increase competitiveness – at least for the trade unions in industry.