Mundlak, Guy. “Organizing Workers in ‘Hybrid Systems’: Comparing Trade Union Strategies in Four Countries — Austria, Germany, Israel and the Netherlands.” Theoretical Inquiries in Law 17 (2016): 163-200.
The freedom and right to associate carries distinct meanings in different systems of industrial relations, giving rise to distinct institutions. Where bargaining is based on grassroots association, rates of membership in trade unions and coverage of collective agreements are low. Where bargaining is actively endorsed by the state, high rates of membership are matched by considerable coverage. Over the last two decades, some countries, four of which are studied here, have gone through a process that I designate as hybridization, in which a gap emerges between a rapidly declining rate of membership and persistent relatively high level of coverage. The article accounts for the growing gap between coverage and membership and its implications. On the basis of extensive interviews with trade union officials, organizers, works councils’ members, Labor Chamber representatives, academics and journalists in the four countries, the article further seeks to document and explain new organizing practices at two levels. First, why do unions seeks to organize, despite persistent power accorded to collective agreements by the state? Second, which strategies are used for current recruitment and organizing practices? The discussion highlights the ongoing tension that is folded in the meeting of institutions that are aimed at sustaining the centralized system of bargaining and social partnership, with the dynamics that are characteristic of raising membership levels. Some best practices that seek to address this tension are identified, but are also characterized as difficult to emulate and extend as a general practice.
In Israel, the old Histadrut, or organization of trade unions, was founded as a welfare agency, it employed about one third of the labor force, and it was the dominant health-service provider, primarily funded by insurance premiums. As a socialist entity, the Histadrut was linked politically and economically to the Labor Party, which helped fund it while in power. The old Histadrut was managed on a political basis, and suffered from organizational decline, including huge debts and economic bankruptcy in most of its institutions and assets. In 1994, a new leader, Haim Ramon, was elected to run the organization. Acting against union members, Ramon transformed the Histadrut into a confederation of autonomous labor unions, selling off Histadrut enterprises and assets to private investors, and severing all political ties. This paper demonstrates the unusual union leadership style of Ramon, who downsized, weakened, and destroyed the Israeli union, while most union leaders act to empower their organization.
[Reviews of: The Political Psychology of Israeli Prime Ministers: When Hard-Liners Opt for Peace, by Yael S. Aronoff; Why Hawks Become Doves: Shimon Peres and Foreign Policy Change in Israel by Guy Ziv]