Union Workplace Voice and Civic Engagement

| Publication date: 11 Jun 2012 | Theme: Trade, Investment & Productivity, Employment & Social policy | NIESR Author(s): Bryson, A | External Author(s): Gomez, R., Kretschmer, T. and Willman, P. | JEL Classification: J51 | NIESR Discussion Paper Number: 394

This paper offers an explanation for the phenomenon of declining democratic engagement. The paper assumes that what happens at work is the primary driver of what occurs outside of the workplace. If workers are exposed to the formalities of collective bargaining and union representation they also perhaps increase their attachment to, and willingness to participate in, structures of democratic governance outside of the workplace. Put another way, if workplace voice and civic voice are complements in the sense that they foster a shared understanding of democracy's value and common cause then we would expect the decline of union representation to affect the civic attitudes and democratic behaviours of individuals outside of the workplace as well. In order for this argument to hold one needs to first test whether individual union members are more prone to vote and participate in civil society than non-members: other research refers to this as the 'union voting premium'. Our finding is that the voice effect of unionism on democratic participation is significant and is larger for those groups which are significantly under-represented when it comes to voting; namely those with fewer years of education, immigrants and younger workers.

Keyword tags: 
unions
voting
civic engagement
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