Two pathways of union leadership for participation.

AuthorMarathe, Gaurav


Union participation has been studied for many years. Union participation is about not only emotional involvement but also carrying out certain activities like supporting the union in ways ranging from more formal activities (e.g. attendance at meetings, voting in elections) to more informal activities (e.g. speaking well of the union to others, assisting others in the workplace) (Kelloway, Catano, & Caroll, 2000; Sayles & Strauss, 1953). Different antecedents of union participation have been studied ranging from members' attitude like union instrumentality, union commitment, union loyalty, and members' perceptions like perceived union support, perceived industrial relations climate, and their relation to the type of union leadership whether transformational or service leadership. The link between union participation, members' perception about the union and the union leadership has been established (Hammer & Wazeter, 1993). Further it was believed that the conceptual and empirical work on the psychology of leadership, attitudes and involvement in the unions would benefit from the increased knowledge about unions as institutions and with the additional knowledge of the industrial relations theory (Hammer, Bayazit & Wazeter, 2009). Union Leadership has been identified as one of the most important factors for union renewal (Levesque & Murray, 2006). Thus in this paper we are exploring how union leadership contributes to the participation of union members through his/her attitude formation. Fullagar, Clark, Gallagher, and Gordon (1994: 517) mentioned the increasing need for understanding the proximal explanation of leadership in explaining the attitude formation of the rank and file by stating that "little has been done to understand the process of attitude formation and the way in which attitudes toward unions are shaped"; this gap still exists. Therefore, in this paper the linkage of leadership--attitude formation through the connection of "four human drives" is being explored (Lawrence, 2010).This paper makes three important contributions to union leadership literature. Firstly, this is an attempt to integrate transactional and transformational leaderships to examine their effects on union participation through two different paths namely union commitment and union instrumentality. Secondly this is the first time that a closer study of underlying drives in human motivation and decision making have been done to establish the linkage between union leadership and union member attitude formation and union participation. Thirdly this study also elaborates the effect of favorable industrial relations climate on each style of union leadership and its consequences on union participation.

Two Pathways

Members' participation in union has been emphasized as one of the key outcome variables in industrial relation studies. Different studies have tried to establish the link for explaining the participation of members in union activities. For the explanation of union participation researchers have tested the attitude formation (union commitment and union instrumentality) of rank and file (Bamberger, Kluger & Suchard, 1999; Fullagar, 1986; Fullagar & Barling, 1989; Gordon et. al, 1980; Kelloway & Barling, 1993; Kelly & Kelly, 1994; Thacker, Fields, & Barclay, 1990). Few studies have even taken this further to explain the process through effect of leadership i.e. leadership leading to attitude formation of rank and file and that results into participation of union members (Batstone, Boratson & Frenkel, 1977; Clark, 1988; Hammer et al., 2009; Metocchi, 2002; Nicholson, Ursell & PBlyton, 1981; Peck, 1963). Clearly two separate pathways can be identified from literature review, one passing through 'union instrumentality (transactional) to union participation' and the other passing through 'union commitment (affective) to union participation'.

Sayles and Strauss (1953) proved that union participation is affected by not only union instrumentality but also union commitment. Newton and Shore (1992) used (Weiner, 1982) model of differentiating instrumental motivation (union instrumentality) and organizational commitment (normative and moral commitment) and secondly O'Reilly and Chatman (1986) model of psychological attachment (compliance to internalization) to propose that participation can be either instrumental-calculative or it can be normative-based on morals. He further claimed that instrumental attachment is short term and would change according to situation while ideological commitment is long term. Chan, Snape and Redman (2004), Sverke and Sjoberg (1995) and Sverke and Kuruvilla (1995) categorized commitment as affective commitment based on commitment that is a sense of shared values, identity and pride in the union, and that of instrumental rationality-based commitment. Schein (1980) described labor unions as utilitarian and normative organization. As a utilitarian organization union provides different benefits to its members as collective bargaining, security, fringe benefits and as normative organization laborers have moral involvement and belongingness to union Sjoberg and Sverke (2001: 99) defined instrumental attachment "as a calculative bond to the union based on cognitive appraisals of the costs and benefits associated with membership, and ideological attachment as commitment to the union based on member-union value congruence." They validated union instrumentality and ideological commitment as two separate constructs. We are considering them as two separate paths for union participation for this paper. According to Rousseau (1989 :121) "two forms of unwritten contracts derive from relations between organizations and their members. Psychological contracts are individual beliefs in a reciprocal obligation between the individual and the organization. Implied contracts are mutual obligations characterizing interactions existing at the level of the relationship". Again two pathways exist for union participation, one the transaction based and the other transformational based. Thus union rank and file attitude has been clearly separated out between the two paths one which is based on transaction and exchange i.e. 'union instrumentality' and other which is based on high level affective involvement i.e. 'union commitment'.

These two different paths can originate from two different types of leadership that is transactional leadership and transformational leadership. Stewards, local union presidents and national union leaders have been studied under union leadership. Steward is mainly attributed with grievance handling work. He is considered as the back bone in grievance handling process. (Catlett & Brown, 1990). According to AFL-CIO (1999) steward's manual, he is a communicator, an advocate, an organizer, a problem solver, a mediator, and a counselor as well as an interpreter and enforcer of the contract (Chang, 2005). When facing workplace, social, or political issues, union stewards may perform multiple roles, assume multiple identities, and adopt various problem-solving strategies, with different ideological underpinning. It has been pointed out that all the three theories--social conflict theory, structural functionalist theory, and rationalization theory play a major role in defining the role of stewards as leader.

While rationalization theory is closer to explanation of transaction aspect, social conflict and structural functionalist theories are closer to transformation aspect. "Transactional leaders are servants of bureaucracy, providing short-term material incentives to followers. They are associated with instrumental, goal-oriented behavior on the part of individual members. They are concerned with exchange and reciprocity"(Cregan, Bartram & Stanton, 2009:704). Transactional leaders provide union services to workers; in response, workers provide membership and support. The paid officials of the post-war years, therefore, typify transactional leaders in trade unions. In contrast, a mobilizing union expects local union representatives to display the characteristics associated with transformational leaders. They do this by attaching individual members' participation in the union to a collective social identity, thereby strengthening collectivism (Conger, Kanungo & Menon, 2000;Cregan et al., 2009; Kelly, 1998). Metocchi (2002) also points out that for perception of supportive climate service leadership is important while for socialization process and early attitude formation transformational leadership is important. G. Burns, Daniels, and DeAngelis (1987) found that union leaders are prominent in combination of selling and participating style and situational leadership is the most appropriate one. Block (1980) proved that both organizing and representation are important functions for union leadership and in different phases union allocate different resources for both the functions. Strauss and Sayles (1952) described that although union leaders are classified as visionary idealists they spend most of the time in day to day...

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