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Political Research Exchange - PRX

What makes Trade Unions support Labor Market Outsiders? Comparing Trade Unions' Behaviour toward Outsiders during Labour Market Policy Reforms in Western Europe since the late 1980s

Nadja Mosimann
University of Geneva
Nadja Mosimann
University of Geneva

Based on my own data on trade unions’ position during labor market policy reforms, I will analyze two main questions: (1) Do trade unions represent outsider interests in labor market policy re-forms? And (2) which factors shape trade unions' behavior toward labor market outsiders?

By comparing trade unions from different West European countries, I will show that some unions care about outsiders, while others do not. The analysis will cover British, German and Swiss trade unions from several sectors and is based on data already collected. I will evaluate trade unions' attitude toward outsiders based on union statements in labor market policy reforms and explain the varying position of trade unions vis-à-vis outsiders by probing the effects of explanatory factors at the union, sectoral and national level.

With regards to an explanation of unions' behavior in dualized labor markets, the literature’s most influential hypothesis states that trade unions’ behavior is determined by their membership composition. I will test this explanation for trade unions composed of insiders and/or outsiders. I will further explore the influence of sectoral economic competition between insiders and outsiders, as well as the influence of employment protection on a national level. Both elements have an impact on the level of protection from unemployment and other labor market risks of which insiders usually benefit from. That is why different levels of sectoral competition and employment protection should change the preferences of insiders and consequently the behavior of unions representing them. Trade Unions navigating in a context of high levels of sectoral economic competition and low levels of national employment protection should for example become more responsive toward outsiders; either because their (insider) members want the same as outsiders or because these unions try to ’level the plan’ for the sake of their (insider) members.
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