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Unions 21
| Blog post

Democracy is dead, long live democracy?

By Becky Wright, Executive Director Unions 21 | 2 min

Our colleague Damon Silvers, created a typology of member engagement outlining the different ways unions can engage members and how each tier strengthens bonds and connection with the union. To help unions to think practically about this, Vic Barlow wrote an accompanying report which helped unions to put engagement into practice.

Now, we’re turning our attention to the traditional way unions come to decide on the positions and priorities of the union through its democratic structures.

During COVID-19 pandemic, we showcased how unions adapted and changed the way we worked. When conferences were cancelled, and we couldn’t meet in our traditional rooms, how did the democratic function of unions continue and what were the outcomes?

Now, as unions begin to think about what we learnt means for the future, we’re asking what union democracy really is in the 21st century.

We’re kicking things off with an exploration of what members know and think about union democracy. Through representative polling, we’re asking union members what their experiences of union democracy is and how they would like it shaped going forward.

Then we’re looking at governance, union boards or execs. How are decisions made? How confident are they in the role they’re in and lastly, how much support and development do they need to do this?

Lastly, what types of democracy are there and what do they mean for output for members? Across the globe, there are many ways unions express democracy and we will try to unpick what works, why and what elements could we consider for a 21st century union?

To help us begin to think through these aspects, we’ve asked a group of union leaders for their views on union democracy from their perspective - as a union takes strike action, as a union is built from merger, as a union with members more likely to no have set workplace and lastly union executives.

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