Changing Forms of Work, Worker Organization, & Protest

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    • 00:05

      [Changing Forms of Work, Worker Organization & Protest]

    • 00:10

      JOHN KELLY: What I want to do is talk about three perspectivesof worker on the link between economic crisis and workerprotest coming out of the field of industrial relations,the study of social movements, and political science.I'll say a little about each of those,and expectations, propositions they advance,then move on and look at some evidence.

    • 00:32

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: I've got some findings on general strikes.I've got findings on shifts in left and right party voteshares over the past few years.And as always when you do social science,you answer one set of questions and at the same timethrow up lots of others.So the final point in the final slideis actually a big, big question, rather thana definitive, conclusion-type answer.

    • 00:55

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: The industrial relations approach is to worker protesteffectively is focused on strikes.There are many other forms of protest,but strikes are the best documented, both in Britainand many other countries.And what industrial relations scholarshave had to say about strikes, generally, Ithink would be well known to many of you.The focus very much is on the balanceof power between organized workers and employers.

    • 01:17

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: And power is thought of and talked about in a numberof different ways.Industrial relations scholars generallyfocus on trade-union density as the proxy for union power.But there are clearly other dimensions of power.Kate's talked about these in her presentation, AssociationalStructural Power.And of course, many of the presentationshere at this conference have talkedabout the impact of fragmented labor markets

    • 01:38

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: and precarious labor contracts on worker conditions of lifeand experience of work.Institutional power, again, somethingthat really brings into play governmentsas political actors trying to erode and weakenthe structures and the regulatory thrustof collective bargaining.So generally speaking, industrial relations scholars,

    • 01:60

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: I suppose, draw the gloomy picturethat strikes would tend to decline overthe long run because of the different waysin which these classes of power have played out in Britainand many other countries.If we turn to the literature on social movements,and I'm thinking here in particular Donatella dellaPorta's recent book, Social Movements in Times

    • 02:22

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: of Austerity, I think there's a rather different approach.So she and her colleagues would say, yes of course, strikeshave declined, union have declined.And therefore, the association between the twois not surprising.It's very familiar.But what they would going to say iswhat's actually interesting about the last few years,the last 10 years or so in particular since the 2008crisis-- maybe even going back a little before that

    • 02:44

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: into the earlier period of neoliberal austerity--there's actually a big upsurge.We see a big upsurge of different forms of protest,not just worker protests, but protestsby students, by the retired people, by migrant workers.And protests taking a variety of different forms,not just strikes, but demonstrations, blockades,rallies, etc.

    • 03:07

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: So in della Porta's view, what the wide ranging thrustof neoliberal austerity policies has done in part,by threatening the interests of so many different groupsin society, has actually created material conditionsfor some form of alliance, maybe even coalitions,between what she calls old social movements-- tradeunions, et cetera-- and new social movements

    • 03:29

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: on the other hand.I don't actually like the distinction, by the way,between old and new social movements.I've never really been very happy or easy with it.But I think the point she's makingis that we are seeing under conditionof neoliberal austerity much more wideranging forms of cooperation between many different groups.And if you look at the frames they

    • 03:50

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: use to construct and mobilize action and organization,she uses the term frames in the Snow and Benfordsense of master frames for collective action.Two big things emerge.Inequality and social justice.And I won't go into the detail of all of those,except to note this point that these kinds of frames

    • 04:10

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: would seem to lend themselves verymuch to a leftist discourse.Or at least the similar phases are much easierto articulate within a leftist ideology or discourse.We'll come to that question in a moment.Della Porta is also particularly struck by,and very supportive of and interested in,the ways in which recent anti-austerity protest

    • 04:31

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: movements have organized.So she's thinking here not just about the Indignados movementin Spain and the occupation of public spaces,but a variety of other forms of protest.And in particular, she's very takenby the use of what she calls deliberative democracy,the focus on inclusiveness, and on debates and dialogue,attempts to reach consensus amongst participants and those

    • 04:52

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: engaged in struggle.On the labor movement, she notes that the its involvementis variable across different countries.I'll come back to that in a moment.There's a big question mark in our work,I think, as to what are the implicationsof this massive upsurge of protestsfor political parties of the world,for the political system?

    • 05:13

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: And social movement theorist, on the whole,don't, I think, often write a great dealabout political parties.They're much more focused on movements.And equally, as we'll see in a moment,political scientists don't say much about social movementsand protests.They're much more focused on parties.And so, one thing I want to do when we look at the evidenceis try and bring these different perspectives togetherand see what they tell us.

    • 05:36

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: So as I say, della Porta's work is somewhat ambivalenton quite what the implications areof the upsurge of anti-austerity protests for political parties,whether mainstream or challenger parties.Political scientists-- and I'm thinking hereof the book by-- I should read out all their names,not just the first because there's a long list of others.

    • 05:57

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: There's Paolo Varamendes, Hausermann, Kitschelt,and Kriesi, Politics of Advanced Capitalism,which came out recently.I think there are two points that come out of this book.Well, no.Actually, there's probably dozens of pointsthat come out of the book.But there are two for the purpose of this presentation.First of all, in their view the economic crisis

    • 06:17

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: has intensified many long-run trendsthat we've seen within the party political systems.In particular voter disillusion with parties,voter disengagement have reduced party membership, reducedwillingness even to vote.So those are long-run trends whichare widespread across Western Europe.And the some counter trends-- obviously, the Corbin surge

    • 06:38

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: in the Labor Party in the UK.But these are counter trends against a dominant trend.And all those trends of what some people callpolitical de-alignments have beenintensified in the economic crisis is one proposition.At the same time, and this potentially raises

    • 06:60

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: a different set of implications, the economic crisishas thrown up or has been constructedaround a set of very particular political issues and debates.And I've mentioned four of them here.These four issues, and the ways in which parties have respondedto them-- migration, austerity, et cetera--have served on the one hand to reproduce the continued

    • 07:23

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: erosion of mainstream parties.Social Democrat, Christian Democrat, center,conservative-- but also to buttressthe fortunes of political challenger partiesfrom both the left and right.And we'll come back to this in a moment.What is less clear, I think, from the political scienceliterature, is on the one hand, howany of these political shifts are linked to

    • 07:44

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: or relate to worker protests or strikes.So more about that in a moment.And how they play out, how this set of issuesplays out in a particular party system.Whether it gives you left swings, right swings,or some form of polarization to the extremes.Again, these are interesting questions that are raised.The answer is not quite so clear cut.

    • 08:04

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: So let's turn now to some evidence.OK, well first, on strikes, I think many of youwill know this.What the chart shows here is what are called strike days.A 1,000 workers start-- the chart starts in 1990,runs up to '13, covers 20 countries in Europe.

    • 08:25

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: And you can see the trend line which has been superimposedon that is downwards.And that's very familiar and well known.Always with these charts it's-- you should ask what happensif you use different countries, or different time-frames,or different measures of strikes?What happens then to the trend line?Answer.Pretty much nothing.

    • 08:45

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: You can play around with these numbers as much as you like.The trend is clearly downwards pretty much everywhere.Occasionally spikes as you see here and there,but these are superimposed on a general downward trend.And thinking back to the first slide, the declining powerresources of unions, this is not a big surprise.What is interesting, however, and hasn't

    • 09:08

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: been much researched, except by small groupsof people roundabout, is that unionshave engaged in other forms of collective actionover the last 20 or 30 years.And the issue here was one alluded toby Kate in the presentation.Unions are not simply bargaining agentswho interact with employers, representing particular workers

    • 09:28

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: in particular enterprises.They do that, of course.But they've are also political activistswho gauge with states.And one of the forms of engagementthat we've seen over the last 30 yearshas been a dramatic increase in the levelof general strikes, political strikes, against governments.Now, if you look at, first of all,

    • 09:49

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: the distribution of these from 1983 to 2015,you'll see, of course, that Greeceis at the absolute top of the league tables.Greece is the winner here.So congratulations to the Greeks.Very well done.What's also striking, of course, isthat Southern Europe plays a big role-- Italy, France,Portugal as you'd expect.

    • 10:10

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: This set of countries at the top of the chartare traditionally highly strike prone countriesin terms of economic strikes, strikes against employers.So in one sense, you could say that's not so surprising.What is also interesting, I think, is the number of strikesthat you see, general strikes against governments,in countries traditionally regarded as very peaceful, verylow conflict countries.

    • 10:30

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria even.Austria had a massive general strike2003, first general strike in 50 or 60 years.People had to go back to a history bookto figure out when they last had one.One of the consequences of Greece dominating the figuresis that when we do analyzes, of course,we have to run two separate sets of regression equations-- one

    • 10:51

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: with Greece, one without Greece.Because we want to know whether Greece is driving the resultsand telling us the main story, or whether there'sa more general story of which Greece is a part.If you look at the trends over time,that's why we have these two lines, the blueand the red line.So the upper line is the 17 countries here--that's the EU 15-- the EU 15 plus Norway, plus Switzerland.

    • 11:16

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: And that shows you a rising trend,three big peaks-- early 90s, early 2000s-- and the postcrisis peak.And if you remove Greece, happily, the pathis exactly the same.So Greece is not producing any significant quantitativelydifferent path of results, which is good.

    • 11:39

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: If you look at what we know by general strikes,the antecedents of general strikes,where do they occur under what conditions,this is pretty much as you would expect.So I won't say more about that for now.The second and third points, I think, are more interesting.General strikes are sometimes depictedas really hopeless, forlorn protest

    • 12:00

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: by powerless groups of workers who have nothing else to do,no other means of improving or protectingtheir terms and conditions.And in desperation they take to the streetsin these futile gestures.Well actually, around a third of strikes-- and we'vegot quite the data on them-- so around a third general strikeshave extracted significant, sometimes major, concessions

    • 12:20

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: from governments.And to see why this is the case, think backto the point made by political scientistsabout the erosion of the vote share of mainstream parties.The parties who've occupied government officesin the last 10, 15, 20 years have themselvesbeen losing vote shares.They've been losing members.They've been losing that hard coreof strongly identified voters.

    • 12:42

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: They are weakening at the same time as unions are weakening.So it's true unions are losing members.But since parties are also declining as well,the balance of power between these two is not obvious.And under some conditions, unionshave been able to extract very significant concessions.Actually, what's also interestingis that the parties least willing to grant concessions

    • 13:04

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: are the parties of the right, conservatives.Well big deal, no surprise there.But also the parties on the left, the Social Democratshave been every bit as tough with unions in general strikesas the conservatives.So faced with when they're pushing through pension reform,welfare reform-- social benefits havebeen every bit as comparable as the conservatives.And that part of the story about the erosion of Social

    • 13:26

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: Democrats' trade union support.The concession story holds, really, before 2008.After 2008, concessions plummet.And virtually no government anywhereis offering concessions to general strikes,despite the big strike surge.It's true that governments that face general strikes oftenget punished at the poles.Ruling parties lose vote share.

    • 13:47

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: So this is good news because it tells some of the worldis just.There is justice, after all.If you face down a strike and don't make concessions,you get punished electorally.That's a good thing.The downside is that, despite the upside to general strikes,we can find no evidence at all they gain membersas a result of these mobilizations.

    • 14:08

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: The erosion of membership seems to continue.And this is problematic because, long run,this is an erosion of the unions' mobilizing capacity.If we turn more broadly to anti-government protests,because remember, the social movement theoristsare interested not just in general strikesbut in a variety of forms of protest against governments.Here we have a very interesting database, the GDELT database,

    • 14:33

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: which I came across in an article--a very interesting article by Maria Quarantain current sociology.This is a huge database, which documents protests,and demonstrations, and rallies from hundreds of newspaper,radio, TV, and digital sources from a huge number of countriesback to 1979.It's updated every 15 minutes.

    • 14:54

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: So there are literally millions and millionsof bits of information about 300 different thingsin the social world-- demonstrations, protests,legislation.You name it, it's there.As always with newspaper sources,one is a little wary as to how far an apparent increaserepresents an increase in reporting or journalist

    • 15:15

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: interest.But nonetheless, I'm just giving you an idea of the numbers hereso you have some sense of this.In the eight years 2000 through 2007,this database documented, in Greece,around 230 anti-government protests and rallies.That's about one every fortnight or thereabout.That's quite a lot, keeps protesters busy.

    • 15:38

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: But 2008 to '15, in that eight-year period,it jumps to over 2,000.That's a phenomenal increase.And even if you say, well, maybe part of thisis a reporting issue, so there's artifactsand problems in the data, they're not all artifacts.There is a massive upsurge in numbers.So one thing we can do is use this database

    • 15:60

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: to plot what has happened to the total level of protestspre-crisis, post-crisis-- really,picking up on della Porta's argumentsabout the upsurge of anti-austerity activity.I've standardized the data against population.And clearly there are more protests in Germany or Francethan Iceland because the population is much bigger.

    • 16:20

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: So you obviously standardize against a median population.The blue bars show you protests 2000 through 2007.The red bars, the crisis years always,and you'll see in virtually every countrya massive, massive increase in the levelof anti-government protests of one kind or another.So here, of course, they the social theorists

    • 16:42

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: are quite right.There is indeed a lot of activity.So it's not just evidence based from a handful of countriescover by della Porta.If we have a much bigger frame of countries,we do see a big upsurge.But now we have an interesting question.And this is really where I want to put togetherthe social movement literature and the party literatureand ask, what do we know about the possibilities

    • 17:05

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: of these kinds of protests, and the associated narratives,discourses, arguments spilling over into the partypolitical arena and the electoral arena?So I counted up-- I assessed the votesof two groups of parties-- the far left, the far right.I left out the mainstream partiesbecause I'm not interested in them.That's not a personal statement, by the way.

    • 17:25

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: It's just and intellectual statement about the research.So in far left you have four groups.The greens we could argue about.Green Parties vary enormously from countryto country and time to time.So you could include or exclude them.I don't really mind.Far right is sometimes hard to pin down.There are parties that everyone else regards as far right

    • 17:46

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: or they don't and vice versa.So there may be some issues here in the measurement.What I want to do is to compare the vote sharesfor all far left and all far rights in a whole bunchof countries, in the most recent election-- that's usuallybetween '13 and '16-- with the last election heldbefore the 2008 crisis.

    • 18:08

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: So we get some sense of how vote shares have played outin the wake of this upsurge of general strikesand upsurge of anti-austerity protests.So here is the far left vote share.And you'll see that there are actuallyonly two countries in which there'sbeen a radical shift in the vote share of the far left.That's Greece and Spain.

    • 18:28

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: And here's both [INAUDIBLE].This is Syriza and Podemos mainly.And in the Netherlands and Italy,far left vote share has declines, whichis interesting but troubling.Not least because della Porta, the authorof the book on social movements, is from Italy.So this should be rather worrying for her,but it doesn't seem to be.Elsewhere, the far left vote pre- and post-crisis

    • 18:50

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: has hardly changed at all.If you want to be kind, you'd say it's stable.I would say if you're being realistic, it's stagnant.It should, for all sorts of theoretical reasons,have increased.There's really no evidence, apart from Greece and Spain,that it's done so.But you could say, look Greece and Spain, that's OK.There's a big upsurge of protests in Greece.Maybe there's some threshold effects involved.

    • 19:10

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: When other countries get over those threshold effectsof levels of protests and demonstrations,maybe their political systems too will get reconfigured.Maybe, but I'm not so sure.This is a more alarming picture, however.Look at what happens to the far right vote.And remember, these are serious hard core, far right parties.You're not talking about conservative partieswith a touch of racism or xenophobia.

    • 19:32

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: This is the populist, hard right, anti-immigrant right.And there, the picture, I think, is much more dramatic.There's a few countries that reallydon't have a far right party, Spain and one or two others,of any consequence.But mostly, the far right upsurge is very, very strikingand pronounced.And if you think this is dismal, in a year's time,

    • 19:53

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: remember, we have elections in France,and we have elections in Germany wherethe Front Nationale and Alternative of Deutschlandare both going to do very well.Le Pen might even be the president.And God help us.If you look at the link between protest and left vote share,their is, some theorists have argued, some associationbetween the two.

    • 20:13

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: This graph charts change in levelsof the protest against change in left vote share.Over the same time period, you'llsee there is a positive association.You might ask, ah, but is that driven by the outliers?Greece, up at the top right, and Spain up at the left.Outliers could often pull lines off very dramatically.Good point.So here we have Greece and Spain removed.

    • 20:34

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: And you'll see the same trend, not quite as strong.But there's clearly some association.The greater of change in protests and demonstrationsagainst government, the greater the shiftin the left vote share, which is good news.The bad news, I think, is that although the rising farleft vote share is associated with a rise in protests,

    • 20:56

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: the scale of the increase is pitifully small and very, verymodest.And by the way, if you opt to remove the Greensfrom the far left chart, you would wipe it outalmost entirely.So the far left really has done very poorly, I think,in the economic crisis.And that is it interesting question I think.And broadly speaking, why is there this apparent disconnect

    • 21:17

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: between the upsurge of protests, demonstrations, rallies,attacks on austerity, punishment of anti-austerity partiesat the polls-- and yet, the far left, broadly defined,has done really, electorally, very badly.The far right, in contrast, has reallydone extraordinarily well.And I think that's, obviously, an enormously troubling issue

    • 21:39

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: politically and personally.But it's also an interesting intellectual question.Why is there such a weak linkage between protest and voting.And it may be, as della Porta says, that many of the peopleinvolved an anti-austerity protests are disillusionedwith parties.They are kind of anti-party activists and militants,and do not want to engage with party political systems.

    • 22:01

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: There's some that's true, but it's troubling.Because what it means is that whilst we're out on the streetsprotesting, and attacking police, and throwing Molotovcocktails, the corridors of power,the executive and the legislature,continue to be run by mainstream bourgeoisparties, and increasingly parties of the far right.So that's a bit troubling.But I think there's an interesting intellectual

    • 22:23

      JOHN KELLY [continued]: question there about how we thinkabout the connection between the involvement in protests,the involvement in political parties,and the rise of far left votes.I have various thoughts about that.But we come to that in Q&A. So on that question I will finish.Thank you very much indeed.[MUSIC PLAYING]

Changing Forms of Work, Worker Organization, & Protest

View Segments Segment :


Professor John Kelly presents his research into unions, protest, and political behavior before and after the economic crisis. He found that protests and strikes have increased dramatically across Europe since the crisis, but that union membership and voting behavior have not matched the protest behavior.

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Changing Forms of Work, Worker Organization, & Protest

Professor John Kelly presents his research into unions, protest, and political behavior before and after the economic crisis. He found that protests and strikes have increased dramatically across Europe since the crisis, but that union membership and voting behavior have not matched the protest behavior.

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