Power in Coalition identifies several universal lessons about coalition practice that provide a guide for building sustainable, reciprocal and powerful coalitions. These are not only applicable to relationships between unions and community organisations. In an article published in Brofenbrenner’s edited book Global Unions, Tattersall directly connects findings about coalitions to how and when global alliances between unions may be strong (or weak).
There is power in coalition: a framework for assessing how and when coalitions are effective and enhance union power
Final version of article published in Labor and Industry, see Tattersall, A. 2005. There is power in coalition: a framework for assessing how and when union-community coalitions are effective and enhance union power. Labor and Industry 16(3), 97.
Abstract: Proposals for union revitalisation suggest the importance of unions reaching out to the community and the formation of union-community coalitions. Yet analysis of how this process of ‘reaching out’ can be most effective for building union power and advancing union renewal is little understood. This paper presents a framework for assessing union-community coalitions, and how different types of coalitions offer varying possibilities for enhancing the power of unions. The framework extends from ad hoc coalitions to complex integrated ‘deep coalition’ forms. I identify a series of coalition features – common interest, structure, organisational buy-in and scale – and argue that they are key determinants of coalition variation and effectiveness. I also explore how these different coalition forms provide increasing possibilities for union power, and promote possibilities for union renewal. I argue that the possibilities for union power and union transformation are increasingly likely when there is broader and deeper interconnection between unions and community organisations within the coalition form.
This paper was presented at the European Group on Organizational Studies colloquium, sub theme 38: social movement unionism, in Bergen Oslo, 7-9 July 2006.
Abstract: Union revitalisation strategies in industrialised countries include attempts by unions to reach out to community organisations and engage in community unionism. One form of community unionism is the long term coalition between unions and community organisations. This paper develops a definition of community and community unionism, identifying three key elements that vary coalition practice – organisational relationships, common concern and multi-scalar capacity. These elements are explored in a comparison of the public education campaigns in NSW and the Ontario Health Coalition in Ontario. I find that both case studies develop successful and sustainable forms of community unionism, while also reflecting stark variations in these three elements. I use these two case studies to speculate about how variations in community unionism operate. For instance I argue that there is an ‘agenda-participatory’ form of community unionism, evident in the public education campaign, where there was strong common concern and multi-scalar capacity without a strong structure of organisational relationships. I argue there is a ‘structure-participatory’ form of community unionism, in the Ontario Health Coalition campaign, where there was a strong organisational structure and multi-scalar capacity without a deep common concern connection. The paper highlights that while each of these forms of community unionism contribute to union power, they provide unions with different sources of power and achieve their success as coalitions in different ways.
A final version of this paper has been published in Working USA: Tattersall, A., D, Reynolds 2007. The Shifting Power of Labor-Community Coalitions: Identifying Common Elements of Powerful Coalitions in Australia and the USA. Working USA 10 (March), 77-102.
Abstract: This paper presents and explores a theoretical framework of common features across labor-community coalitions. While researchers in both the U.S. and Australia have written about labor-community coalitions, most of this work has focused on profiling “best practices” rather than building a framework for understanding coalition such work in general. This paper argues that all coalitions are defined by four common elements: the nature of common concern, the structure of organizational relationships, organizational capacity and commitment, and the scale of coalition activity. It then uses these elements to identify four different ideal types of coalitions, varying from ad hoc coalitions, to simple coalitions, to mutual interest coalitions to deep coalitions. The paper illustrates the usefulness of this framework by using it to examine sample coalition experiences in the U.S. and Australia. The Australian case displays variation in coalition type within a single ongoing campaign around public education. By contrast, eight sample U.S. living wage efforts demonstrate variation in coalition type among different campaigns.
An updated version of this paper has been published by the Labor Studies Journal, see it at Tattersall, A. 2009. A little help from our friends: a framework for understanding when labor unions are likely to join long term labor-community coalitions. Labor Studies Journal 34, 4.
Abstract: Union renewal and coalition unionism are widely considered necessary, however the different factors that provoke union engagement in coalitions is under-theorized. This article considers six factors that help explain when a union is likely to form a coalition with a community organisation using the term community and the dialectic of opportunity and choice. It then explores this framework by comparing two case studies of union engagement in long-term coalitions in Australia and Canada. The article finds that pre-existing union identities, common interest and decentralized union structures are important factors in coalition formation and whether member participation is likely in coalition activity. It highlights that unions are likely to engage in coalition unionism when there is a coincidence of crisis and perceived opportunity for coalition practice, while noting that the depth of union engagement is greatly affected by the type of union actors that initiate coalition participation (whether officials, factions, organizers or delegates). The article finds that different passages for coalition unionism are possible, and they can originate inside unions or be provoked externally by coalitions. It stresses that union leadership support for coalition unionism may be necessary for coalition practice, but it is not sufficient for generating deep union engagement in coalitions.
Download the full text: Tattersall A little help from our friends LSJ
For final version of article please see Tattersall, A. 2008. Coalitions and Community Unionism: using the term community to explore effective union-community collaboration. Journal of Organisational Change and Management 21(4), 415-432.
Union-community collaboration is an increasingly common practice in industrialised nations where union power and density have declined. Purpose: This article proposes a framework for defining and evaluating community unionism, through a definition of the term ‘community.’ Findings and originality: It defines the term community in three discrete but mutually reinforcing ways, as (community) organisation; common interest identity, and local neighbourhood or place. The term is used to then define community unionism as three discrete union strategies, and finally to examine one type of community unionism – coalition unionism. The paper identifies three elements of coalition unionism. Successful coalition practice is defined by partner organisational relationships (coalition structure, bridge brokers and coalition offices); common concern (common interest operates as mutual direct interest of organisation and members), and the element of scale (where success increases as coalitions operate at multiple scales such as the local, as well as the scale of government and/or business decision makers). Methodology: I explore this framework drawing on campaigns in Sydney and Chicago.