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NATIONAL UNIONS AS ORGANIZATIONS
Jack Fiorito, Paul Jarley and John T. Delaney

ABSTRACT
Although the study of unions and their effects has a long history, only recently have researchers begun to analyze unions as organizations. In such studies, the union itself is a focus, rather than its effects or the behavior of individuals in relation to unions. Some key topics include union environments, goals, strategies, structures, and outcomes, including innovation and effectiveness. This paper reviews recent research in order to summarize current knowledge on national unions as organizations, and offers suggestions for further research. Particular attention is devoted to national unions, as they occupy a critical place in the network of union organizations. U.S. unions have faced serious challenges in recent decades, and their efforts to cope with these and adapt to their changing environments may have lessons for the study of organizations more generally.

INTRODUCTION
Why study unions as organizations? After all, unions are anachronisms; like dinosaurs they are facing extinction. American society has passed unions by, and so should scholars interested in contemporary employment relationships. Human resource management has prevailed and the study of unions should be left to historians.
Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management, Volume 20, pages 231–267. Copyright © 2001 by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights of reproduction in any form reserved. ISBN: 0-7623-0840-0

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This is a view commonly expressed in management departments, one we hear frequently. Unions are in trouble, but they are far from dead and still represent about 14% of American workers (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2001). Unions speak directly for over 16 million U.S. workers, and can claim to speak for U.S. workers with greater legitimacy than can any other group. Paradoxically perhaps, it is partly the decline in unions that makes them such fertile ground for study. At the most fundamental level, unions played an important role in setting conditions of employment and championing wider social change for most of the 20th Century. If they are passing from the scene, it is important to understand why and what the ramifications are for American workers and society generally. Are the functions traditionally filled by unions no longer necessary? Are these functions being assumed by other organizations? If not, might new organizations rise to fill the void left by unions? These are big questions with obvious links to issues of central importance to the study of organizations generally. Importantly for immediate purposes, unions offer an opportunity to examine the relative roles of environment on the one hand, and strategy and structure on the other, in organizational survival. This speaks directly to the long-standing debate in social science between advocates of environmental determinism and those that tout strategic choice. Union influence has diminished over the last two decades, but it is clear that they are not going down without a fight and have engaged in much soul-searching and internal reform in an effort to reverse their fortunes. Can organizations like unions transform themselves in the face of strong environmental imperatives? Do they have the capacity to adapt to their environment or are they destined to fall victim to overwhelming environmental pressure? That unions have governance systems and processes that are distinct from businesses and many nonprofit organizations only adds to their appeal as a focus of study. Such unique characteristics may condition the responses of unions to change and prove to be important contingencies that must be incorporated into organization theory and theories of organizational change generally. In this paper, we explore what we know and don’t know about unions as organizations. In critiquing our work, as well as the work of others, we hope to contribute to theory development about unions, shed light on the issue of union renewal, and set out an agenda for future research in this area. We also hope to stimulate more interest in the study of unions by human resource scholars interested in how human resource systems influence organizational performance.

NATIONAL UNIONS AS ORGANIZATIONS
The study of unions has been around almost since their creation, but the study of unions as organizations is a much more recent phenomenon. The distinction

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is a subtle, but important one. Quantitative studies of unions have generally been about unions in the aggregate, more precisely about the effect of their presence or absence on some outcome of interest. It is the outcome of interest that drives model specification. For example, one of the most popular social science research topics of all time is undoubtedly the union wage effect. Typically, such analyses compare union and nonunion workers’ pay, using a dummy variable to mark union status or representation, and its coefficient is interpreted as a union wage effect. In such studies, all unions are presumptively alike and each union is a “black box.” The goal is not to understand how unions operate, but merely estimate their average effect on some important outcome. In contrast, the study of unions as organizations takes the union as the focal point and seeks to understand how unions function and achieve their objectives. The quantitative literature is much more recent than work on unions generally, dating from the early 1970s (e.g. Child, Loveridge & Warner, 1973), although it was influenced by case study and more qualitative efforts dating from much earlier periods (e.g. Barbash, 1969; Webb & Webb, 1911). It has also borrowed heavily from the literature on organizations more generally. The organizational science literature contains many competing paradigms and overlapping measures, but we think it fair to say that the application of this literature to unions has tended to gravitate around two perspectives. First, there are open rational systems models (Scott, 1987), especially contingency theory, which recognize the importance of the environment in shaping organizations and their performance. Second, there are “natural systems approaches,” such as the strategic contingency and institutional literatures, that recognize that organizational structures and practices are partly the result of political contests within organizations and cultural pressures to conform to conventional beliefs. Such insights seem especially salient to unions given their formal democratic nature (a point we address further below) and heavy legal regulation. Our synthesis of these two approaches as they apply to unions yields a fairly succinct framework in which the environment influences but does not wholly determine both the internal workings and performance outcomes of unions. Within unions, our model suggests a dominant causal path such that goals lead to strategies, strategies lead to structures, and both strategy and structure influence performance (Fiorito, Gramm & Hendricks, 1991; Fiorito, Jarley & Delaney, 1993). These internal union systems (i.e. goals, strategies, and structures) are key choice variables for unions (i.e. things they control and can change in an effort to enhance performance). Thus key questions in the literature on unions as organizations are the degree to which union goals, strategies, and structures do vary, the role of the environment in explaining
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such variation, and the relative influence of environment, strategy, structure, and internal union practices on union performance. The potential for variation in union environments, attributes, and outcomes is very large. In the U.S. alone, there are over 100 distinct national (in some instances “international”) organizations, and tens of thousands of local and mostly subordinate organizations (Gifford, 2000). Many of these national unions, and at least some of the larger locals, are full-fledged bureaucracies with specialized departments staffed by professionals who provide expertise on particular issues such as health and safety, law, organizing, or negotiation with employers. Bargaining with employers is typically the –raison d’etre– for these organizations. In addition to these basic elements, there is a national federation of unions to which – most – U.S. national unions affiliate (the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, AFL-CIO) and state, area and city counterparts to the AFL-CIO (often referred to as “central councils”). These central bodies tend to emphasize political issues in their jurisdictions, providing a common forum for worker interests in corresponding political units (i.e. with federal, state and city authorities). Internationally, these patterns are repeated (with important variations) within different nations and there are even transnational bodies that focus on global or transcontinental issues of interest to various types of unions and workers in different countries. Clearly, there is an abundance of union organizations in the world. Our main focus here is on a particular cross section of these, U.S. national unions. These are the sovereign bodies of the U.S. labor movement. Accordingly, they deserve considerable research attention. This is not to say that studies of other crosssections (e.g. central councils, local unions, international bodies) are not needed or would not be informative, of course. But, U.S. national unions occupy a key position in the complex network of organizations that unions comprise, and have been the topic of many studies. It is a good time to ask what we know about them as organizations, and how we might direct future research efforts to maximize knowledge gains. To provide some order to this discussion, we use the succinct framework outlined above to review the evidence to date, moving from environment to goals, strategies, structures, and finally performance outcomes.

ENVIRONMENTAL INFLUENCES
Aggregate studies of union growth and decline as well as research on union organizing and bargaining outcomes suggest that a variety of environmental influences impact unions, including public opinion, government regulation,

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employer strategies, economic conditions, worker attitudes, and the shifting nature of employment to name just a few (e.g. Fiorito & Maranto, 1987). But much of this research has focused on outcomes such as membership growth, election success, or negotiated settlements, not union structures or internal practices. In addition, while many of these factors have varied considerably over long periods of time, the bulk of the research on unions as organizations has been cross-sectional and there may be little variance in some environment elements across national unions. Thus, a challenge has been to conceptualize and measure national union environments, and to link variations in these environments to variations in internal union structures and outcomes. The Law, Public Opinion, and the Economy Inspiration has come from diverse sources, each with its own problems, and cumulatively these various efforts to conceptualize and measure national union environments have produced limited results. One source of inspiration has been aggregate studies linking broad changes in the economy and society to union membership growth. Here, the underlying logic is that the factors that have been identified as important in the aggregate may be present to varying degrees in national union environments. For example, few would argue that changes in the legal environment haven’t played an important role in shaping union structures and practices. Most obviously, passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935 (commonly referred to as the Wagner Act) created a statutory process for determining union representation and banned certain employer antiunion practices. Subsequently, the Labor Management Relations Act in 1947 (commonly referred to as the Taft-Hartley Act or Amendments) outlawed various union practices including the closed shop. In 1959, the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (commonly referred to as the Landrum-Griffin Act) was passed. It requires unions to formalize and regularize such internal governance practices as elections of union leaders. The legal environment as a whole could be described as one that nominally grants workers rights to form or join unions of their own choosing without employer interference, and to engage in collective activities in pursuit of their interests at the workplace and in the political sphere. From the perspective of unions as organizations, the legal system grants them a right to exist, engage in certain activities on behalf of their members, and carry on their internal affairs with a limited degree of external regulation. Although many employers respect these rights, for various reasons including competitive pressures, private sector employers have been increasingly prone to violate or circumvent these rights in their efforts to prevent or weaken unionization among their workforces:
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The reality of NLRA enforcement falls far short of its goals. Many workers who try to form and join trade unions to bargain with their employers are spied on, harassed, pressured, threatened, suspended, fired, deported, or otherwise victimized in reprisal for their exercise of the right to freedom of association. Private employers are the main agents of abuse . . . [L]abor law enforcement efforts often fail to deter unlawful conduct (Compa, 2000, p. 9).

Thus, the overall legal environment for unions can be considered mildly hostile, with considerable variation particularly as between private sector and public sector environments. Nominal rights exist, yet in many instances these rights cannot be effectuated without great cost, if at all. Not surprisingly, unions devote considerable political effort to changing the legal environment, but prospects for reforms that unions favor are poor. Union efforts to mobilize public support for favorable legislative change, (e.g. in suggesting that employers are waging a secret war on workers) have failed to take hold. In general, federal regulation has served to homogenize contemporary national union environments and structures, forcing conformity. This is especially true in the private sector, where only railroad and airline employees operate outside the NLRA framework. Greater diversity exists between public and private sector settings and within the public sector itself where state regulations differ on a number of dimensions. This variation has been exploited to some degree by researchers as there is evidence of links between sector (i.e. legal framework) and union characteristics. For example, unions operating under the Railway Labor Act tend to have more homogenous memberships, consistent with the craft-based bargaining structure and relatively narrow industry jurisdiction of that law. A number of private-public sector difference have been detected as well (Jarley, Fiorito & Delaney, 1998), including greater innovation and more democratic structures among public sector unions. Similarly, some argue that public opinion about labor unions (Lipset, 1986) has played a key role in membership decline. While this hypothesis is controversial it is virtually impossible to test in the national union context because the general public’s views are rarely available in a form that would allow such data to be linked to particular unions (e.g. by union environment or industry). Furthermore, it may be reasonable to assume that the public holds opinions about such unions as the Teamsters, National Education Association, or Major League Baseball Players, or about the appropriateness of unions for various types of employees (e.g. police officers, firefighters, plumbers). It is doubtful that much of the public knows that such unions as the Graphic Artists, Office and Professional Employees, or Train Dispatchers even exist. A more promising area of inquiry focuses on economic factors. Some of the earliest studies of union growth and decline over time found a strong link

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between economic variables (e.g. price changes, unemployment) and union growth. A virtual truism in earlier literature on union growth and decline was that unions grew in prosperous times and declined in times of economic difficulty. More recent evidence is less clear on this (Stepina & Fiorito, 1986), and casual observation fails to reveal any obvious link between the long period of economic expansion in the 1990s and union membership trends. For our purposes, a key point is that unions face different economic conditions in their respective environments. We would expect these differences would lead to different union characteristics and outcomes. Once again, however, it is easier to say union environments differ than it is to measure such differences. A key problem is that while data on economic conditions such as employment growth, wage changes, and sales are available by industry, mapping industry data to national unions is complex. Union decline has brought diversification through jurisdictional expansion and mergers, seriously diluting traditional jurisdictions based on a single industry or occupation. This lack of a clear one-to-one correspondence between unions and industries creates the prospect for considerable measurement error in relying either on matching the union to the industry characteristics where it has the greatest concentration of membership (i.e. primary jurisdiction), or by creating “synthetic” environments based on some scheme that weights the characteristics of each industry where the union operates by the proportion of the union’s total membership working in that industry. Perhaps because the problems in this approach are so significant, attempts to create such measures of union environments have been sparse and the results mixed. For example, in studies of organizing effectiveness, findings from Fiorito, Jarley and Delaney (1995) have linked some organizing success measures to employment growth in different industries (i.e. different union environments), but Fiorito, Jarley and Delaney (2001) found no confirmation of this link. Employers and Workers A second source of inspiration has been studies of specific union outcomes, especially representation elections and bargaining outcomes. The notion of using worker and employer attitudes and actions to form national union environments has considerable appeal. Unions confront specific employers in both organizing and bargaining contexts, and workers face the choice of electing and working through a specific union. With respect to employers, a key variable has been the degree to which they actively oppose unions. Employer opposition to unions ranges from “generally mild” in the public sector to “generally vigorous” in the private sector, with
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considerable variation within each. Union wage and benefit effects are substantial, estimated at upwards of 10% (higher for benefits; Freeman & Medoff, 1984). Even if we ignore other union effects (or allow for the possibility that these effects may be partly offset by positive productivity effects; Freeman & Medoff, 1984), there are substantial financial implications associated with unionization. As representatives of owner or shareholder interests, managers almost instinctively respond unfavorably to organizing efforts and unions. Beyond the economics, managerial opposition to unions may also stem from union threats to managerial control. Not surprisingly, most workers who have experienced organizing campaigns report that management opposed the union, and most nonunion workers who say they want union representation cite management opposition as the main reason they don’t have one (Freeman & Rogers, 1999). The vast majority of managers prefer to deal with workers individually, a majority would oppose unionization efforts, and a substantial minority, one-third, feel that their promotion chances would be harmed by a successful organizing drive among their workers (Freeman & Rogers, 1999). Some unions may face more hostile employers than others, making it more difficult to achieve organizing and bargaining objectives. Evidence from studies of unions as organizations is sparse on this matter. A key reason is that it is difficult to determine in a systematic way the characteristics of employers that deal with particular unions. NLRB data on employer unfair labor practice activity can be sorted by charging union to provide an indicator of employer opposition for each union Results generally show that more objective union outcomes, such as NLRB election win rates and membership growth, are reduced by more intense employer opposition. More subjective outcomes based on perceptions (e.g. leader perceptions of their unions’ organizing effectiveness) do not demonstrate the same linkage, possibly because such assessments already take into account the employer opposition environment. That is, leaders may rate their unions’ organizing success highly even with few victories because those few victories arose in the face of intense opposition (Fiorito et al., 1995, 2001). It should also be noted that reliance on NLRB data comes at a price, since many public sector, railroad and airline unions have little or no contact with the NLRB, and as a result they typically are not included in such analyses. We are unaware of any theory or empirical results that attempt to link the degree of employer opposition to the internal structure and operating practices of unions, but other employer characteristics have been linked to unions in this fashion. Unions are sometimes called “secondary organizations” in the sense that their existence is to some extent defined in terms of another organization. Again, unions exist largely to bargain with employers. With no employment

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relationship, there is no union, or at least the union would be a very different sort of organization. Accordingly, one would expect that characteristics of their “referent” organizations (i.e. employers) might exert a number of influences. Centralization of bargaining authority in unions, for example, is likely to reflect the locus of decision making in bargaining partner organizations (Hendricks, Gramm & Fiorito, 1993). A recent effort to model information technology (IT) adoption in unions found some evidence that union IT adoption is driven in part by IT sophistication among relevant employer organizations (Fiorito, Jarley & Delaney, 2000a). By law and tradition, unionization decisions are normally a reflection of worker preferences. Although the preceding discussion on the legal environment, public attitudes, and employer attitudes suggests important qualifications on this view, worker attitudes are nonetheless critical. Numerous studies have linked worker attitudes and beliefs to voting in representation elections and similar voting intentions (Barling, Fullagar & Kelloway, 1992; Fiorito & Young, 1998). In such studies, dissatisfaction with jobs and perceptions of union instrumentality stand out as decisive attitudinal variables, with a somewhat lesser role for variables representing workers’ general attitudes toward unions. A variety of other key union issues such as member commitment and participation are also linked to attitudes in individual-level studies (Barling et al., 1992). Data at the macro level consistently show that a sizeable share of nonunion workers desire union representation. For example, Freeman and Rogers (1999) reported that in 1994, roughly one-third of nonunion workers and nine-tenths of union members would vote for union representation if given the opportunity. Roughly 20 years of such data indicate fairly stable results over time. More recent polls suggest that there may be growing attitudinal support for unions, and perhaps especially among younger workers (AFL-CIO, 1999). This result on youth may be particularly important as union members are typically older than nonunion workers. Union density is highest among workers aged 45–54 (18.8%), lowest among those 16–24 (5%), and generally increases with age up to age 65 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2001). Unions have had serious difficulty in relating to young workers, and any change in this pattern would be a major development. As for worker attitudes and activities in the study of unions as organizations, it is also reasonable to speculate that different national unions attempt to organize and bargain for workers who support unions to varying degrees, with obvious implications for union performance. Yet here too, as with other environmental influences, it is difficult to obtain data that correspond closely to union environments, and prior research has relied on industry-based tabulations and mappings of unions to industries. There is thus some evidence
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linking worker attitudes to organizing effectiveness differences in unions (Fiorito et al., 1995, 2001). In effect, some unions may achieve (or leaders may perceive) greater success as a result of more favorable attitudes among the workers they are trying to enroll. In addition, variables measuring the heterogeneity of union memberships have been found to play a role in studies of union innovation (Delaney, Jarley & Fiorito, 1996), political activities (Delaney, Fiorito & Masters, 1988; Delaney, Fiorito & Jarley, 1999), and possibly governance systems (Jarley, Fiorito & Delaney, 2000). Although membership heterogeneity is clearly not an attitude, presumably the causal mechanisms involving any heterogeneity effects entail attitudinal differences among the various membership components. Given that membership heterogeneity is likely to be associated with “equality structures” (e.g. having departments for gay and lesbian workers, women, racial minorities), results finding an association between equality structures and adoption of the “organizing model” (Heery, Simms, Delbridge, Salmon & Simpson, 2000a) suggested one additional possible influence. (More is said on the organizing model later.) Complexity, Uncertainty, and Munificence A third source of inspiration has been the organizational science literature and its more abstract treatment of the environment. Unlike the economic and industrial relations literatures that have tended to examine single item measures of concrete aspects of the environment (e.g. employer opposition, employment growth), the organizational science literature has focused on multi-item measures of more abstract dimensions of environments. Notions of complexity, instability, and munificence have been linked to national union characteristics, but not outcomes. As with other measures created from objective industry level data, these efforts suffer from the multi-industrial character of most unions, and thus the difficulty of mapping industries to unions. In addition, while these constructs seem best captured through multi-item measures, the literature to date has been guilty of using single item proxies. Thus, for example, Delaney et al. (1996) used both membership change and changes in bargaining coverage as proxies for environmental uncertainty with limited success in models of national union innovation. In perhaps the most extensive application of organizational science concepts and measures of the environment in the national union context, Jarley, Fiorito and Delaney (1998) reported links between environmental complexity and centralized control and administrative rationalization within unions, as well as some evidence of a negative association between structural differentiation and environmental munificence.

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All told, while we know a considerable amount about how various aspects of the environment influence union outcomes, we still know very little about how variations in national union environments lead to variations in national union structures and practices. Data limitations, difficulties in matching the available data to national unions, and perhaps a lack of sound theory have all contributed to unimpressive empirical results. This seems especially true of efforts to link environments to union characteristics, a key element of any effort to separate out the various effects of environments and organizational attributes on union performance.

UNION GOALS
As noted elsewhere (Fiorito et al., 1991), union goals can be delineated along various lines. Goals can be workplace-focused (e.g. wage improvements) or external (e.g. tax fairness). They can be distinguished in terms of whether they are defined in terms of members (i.e. narrowly) or in terms of class interests (broadly). Union goals can be further differentiated as to whether they involve improvements within the existing social order (instrumentalism) or change in that order (reformism or radicalism). Despite their importance, there has been little study of union goals per se at the organization level. One likely reason for this research neglect is that mainstream typologies of union goals, while useful in capturing fundamental differences in the labor movements of various countries, are of little value in distinguishing among American unions. With a few exceptions, U.S. unions focus on instrumental goals and put primary emphasis on members’ workplace interests. Truly radical goals are not a serious issue for the vast majority of unions and members, and even their interest in meaningful reform is sometimes questioned. To capture true variations in union goals, researchers will need to “dig deeper.” Collective bargaining agreements differ substantially in content (e.g. Kochan, 1980). To some extent this reflects differences in bargaining power and employer preferences, but different union goals are also a factor. Workforces differ from workplace to workplace and union to union, and so too will the goals of various worker groups. Preferences will differ for wages versus benefits, for job control and professional standards, safety, job security, leisure time, and so forth. Separating these effects is difficult (Fiorito & Hendricks, 1987b). Unions may also differ in the degree to which they emphasize workplace versus social issues, but these too can be difficult to separate. For example, recent controversies on international trade policies are a bit removed from the workplace in the sense that there is little point in bargaining with employers
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on such, yet at the same time many members’ job interests may be greatly affected. A further limiting factor arises because of agency issues. Union goals are a reflection of both leader and members influences and how these play out (i.e. agency effects). Given that relations between member and leader goals are a core issue, data are needed from samples of members in different organizations as well as from leaders in different organizations in order to provide any systematic analysis of the agency issue. We know of no such database, and to construct such a database would be a daunting task. Yet, this may be a useful way to isolate goals of members, leaders, and unions from the effects of employer influence and bargaining power.

UNION STRATEGIES
Many discussions of union strategy begin with Webb and Webb (1911). The Webbs identified three distinct “methods” for advancing worker interests: bargaining with employers, legal enactment (legislation), and mutual insurance or self-help (e.g. providing a union-funded pension or direct services to members). Variations on these three basic strategies have been noted, as have complementary strategies including resource acquisition, solidarity-building, and organizing (Fiorito et al., 1991; Fiorito et al., 1993). A further refinement has been suggested by Boxall and Haynes (1997). Focusing specifically on contemporary “neo-liberal” environments and emphasizing worker-union relations and union-employer relations, Boxall and Haynes outlined four distinct union strategies. “Classic unionism” is defined as emphasizing service to members and organizing along with adversarial employer relations. “Paper tiger unionism” emphasizes services but not organizing, and formalistic adversarial relations with employers. “Partnership unionism” emphasizes both servicing and organizing, but in contrast to classic unionism, adversarialism is de-emphasized in favor of cooperative relations with employers. Finally, “consultancy unionism” emphasizes servicing, including direct services from the union to its members, and routine adversarial relations with some cooperative practices. Boxall and Haynes noted that these are idealized types, and that in practice unions may combine elements of these strategies. Although illustrating their typology with New Zealand unions, their analysis appears pertinent to distinctions, directions, and controversies evident in union strategies elsewhere (e.g. Australia, Britain, and the U.S.). As Boxall and Haynes (1997) noted, their schema does not address union-state relations (e.g. peak-level tripartism, etc). That limitation aside, it does seem a promising direction for

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further analyses of union strategies. Boxall and Haynes took union strategy analysis to a greater level of specificity than many previous conceptions, and as noted, their conception seems to encompass some key issues currently in play. Heery, Simms, Simpson, Delbridge, and Salmon’s work (e.g. 2000b) analyzing British union organizing policies and practices in detail provides guidance as to how conceptions about organizing strategies might be elaborated. Does union strategy matter? Given the controversy surrounding this issue in the literature on business strategy (e.g. Child, 1997), and the relative infancy of union strategy analysis despite its early roots in the work of the Webbs (Boxall & Haynes, 1997), the lack of clear answers to this question is not surprising. Although Heery suggested that “the literature now abounds with typologies of union strategy” (1998, pp. 346–347), there has been little testing. Heery further noted that in reality union strategies are often hybrids combining various types. This no doubt contributes to difficulties in operationalizing measures for testing purposes. Aside from case studies that employ the high-resolution microscopic lens of hindsight, there have been few empirical studies. One of the first studies examining the impact of union characteristics on representation elections outcomes used a number of archival measures that could be linked to strategy (Maranto & Fiorito, 1987). For examples, Maranto and Fiorito considered dues levels and levels of direct benefits provided to members (i.e. pricing strategy and product strategy?) along with whether elections were in the unions’ primary jurisdictions (i.e. product-placement strategy?). At least for elections among white-collar workers, they found some evidence that lower dues levels and greater direct benefit levels were associated with union victories. The relation between union jurisdiction and the election unit’s industry was positive for blue-collar units (i.e. unions achieve greater success in their traditional “focus” industry). For white-collar workers, however, an interaction complicated interpretation, but it appears that unions that were already strong in an industry achieved relatively greater success in organizing white-collar workers in that industry. A key point here is that there is some evidence linking union characteristics that have strategic interpretations with union outcomes. More recent studies that have attempted to analyze strategy-structure, strategy-outcome, and strategy-environment links in broad samples of unions have yielded mixed results for relatively abstract strategy variables. Conceptualizing strategy in terms of two dimensions, “scope of methods” and “scope of issues,” Jarley et al. (1998) found little variance in the scope of issues that U.S. unions pursued and no evidence of relations for it with other union variables. This is consistent with the point about a lack of variation in
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goals noted earlier, but also note the point about the need for greater specificity in discussion of Boxall and Haynes’ work (1997) just above. They did, however, find greater variance in the scope of methods (i.e. strategies) used, and a positive correlation between this measure and perceived union effectiveness. In contrast, Fiorito, Stepina, Jarley, Delaney and Knudstrup (1997) found perceived union effectiveness positively correlated with the scope of issues pursued but unrelated to the scope of methods used. The latter study analyzed individual-level data and controlled for other influences in contrast to the former study which used bivariate correlation for union-level data, yet the underlying data and measures in both studies are essentially the same. In more recent studies of organizing and union effectiveness with newer union-level data, Fiorito et al. (2000a, 2001) combined these two “strategic scope” measures and found limited evidence of a positive link to effectiveness measures, but no evidence of a link between strategic scope and information technology (IT) use. On the whole then, the evidence suggests that union strategies may matter for union outcomes. Specifically, there is some hint among the conflicting evidence that unions that pursue broader strategies (e.g. workplace and nonworkplace) and use a broader range of methods (e.g. bargaining and legislation) may be more effective than those that focus on narrower goals and use fewer methods. As much of the cited empirical literature suggests, however, if conceptualizing union strategy is in its infancy, then measuring union strategy is still in an embryonic stage. “Rather like management strategy . . . strategic action by trade unions appears to be more complex and less coherent than available theoretical models suggest” (Heery, 1998, p. 350). To take the biological metaphor one step further back, definitive results on the effects of union strategy are no more than a gleam in the eye of researchers at this point. More detailed specification of union strategy may be a promising direction for future studies.

UNION STRUCTURES
Organizational theorists place considerable emphasis on the importance of structure (e.g. Perrow, 1986). Union researchers have shared this perspective, and there is a considerable conceptual and empirical literature on the role of union structure (e.g. Fiorito et al., 1991; Jarley et al., 1997; Strauss, 1993; Willman, 2001). This literature can be divided into three general topical areas: external structure, administrative structure, and governance structure (with the latter two types emphasizing internal structure).

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External Structure External or “horizontal” structure (Fiorito et al., 1991) refers to the boundaries between unions and their environments. This includes boundaries between national unions and between locals. Issues of jurisdiction and bases for organization (e.g. occupation or craft, industry, and enterprise) fall under this heading. Relations between a national union and its locals, however, are more properly seen as involving a vertical dimension, including both administrative and governance issues, and are dealt with more fully in following sections. Research on external structure issues varies by issue. National union mergers have increased considerably since the 1980s and have received considerable attention (e.g. Chaison, 1996; Clark & Gray, 2000). We know that there are different types of mergers (e.g. “proper” mergers where two unions come together to form a new union versus absorptions where a smaller union’s identity is subsumed within that of its larger partner), and that absorptions are far more common than true mergers. Key factors favoring and obstructing mergers have been identified, as has the importance of idiosyncratic influences. The latter, along with a relatively small number of cases, limit efforts to advance and test any general theory. Less is known about the consequences of mergers. There have been few if any credible studies of whether mergers accomplished their intended purposes or how the members felt about the merger some time afterwards. One exception is provided by Jarley, Harley, and Hall (in press), who found little evidence that merger activity among Australian unions had an impact on their innovative activity. Chaison, Sverke, and Sjoberg (2001) reported that a union merger had only a modest effect on member participation. There also has been little research on union jurisdictions per se. Seeber (1984) noted an expansionary trend in jurisdictions many years ago, and those trends appear to have persisted. Yet, there is little work in this vein (Sherer & Leblebici, 1993). Jarley et al. (1998) found that unions having a general jurisdiction (i.e. open or inclusive membership) were more likely to have heterogeneous memberships and complex structures. There was no association with union effectiveness. Heery et al. (2000b) found that open-membership unions were more likely to adapt the organizing model. These results seem plausible and suggest some important relations, but there is obviously much we don’t know about jurisdiction or openness and its consequences. Similarly, although many national unions have recently pushed for consolidation among their subordinates, there are few if any systematic studies of this phenomenon. Obviously there are some interesting questions to be addressed. Are the consolidated unions more effective or efficient in organizing, bargaining, or in service to their members? How do the members feel about their new union as compared to their old one?
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Administrative Structures Theorizing and empirical work on administrative structures in unions have been heavily influenced by earlier work on business organizations (e.g. Child et al., 1973; Warner, 1975). The need for unions to operate in a “business-like” fashion was noted long ago (Barbash, 1969), and contemporary scholars continue to stress similar themes. “Unions need to become more bureaucratic, in the sense of operating through expert representatives, in a routine manner, using a web of procedural and substantive rules if they are to have more than a transient impact” (Heery, 2001, p. 316). This need has been noted in more “trade-oriented” outlets as well: “Trade unions need efficient internal management in order to become experts in dealing with constant change” (McCarten, 2001, p. 22). Within the context of administrative structures, a key distinction is typically drawn between centralization and rationalization of decision making (e.g. Warner, 1975). Centralization refers to the vertical locus of decision making within the organizational hierarchy, although it has been operationalized both in terms of organizational subunits (e.g. national headquarters versus locals) and individuals (e.g. top leaders versus members). It can also be conceptualized in terms whether decisions are concentrated in the hands of a few or distributed more widely (Jarley et al., 1997; Knoke, 1990). Rationalization is sometimes referred to as “structuring of activities” or “structuring.” A further distinction within the broad concept of rationalization can be made between administrative structuring and administrative rationalization (Jarley et al., 1997). More often, rationalization is described as consisting of several distinct dimensions, including standardization, specialization, formalization, and configuration or hierarchy (e.g. number of levels of hierarchy and/or span of control). Consistent with the overall thrust of the concept, additional dimensions may include coordination, communication, and even elements of strategic planning such as environmental scanning (Fiorito et al., 2000a; Jarley et al., in press). Theory and Research on Centralization Centralization has long been a topic of interest in the study of unions. In part this is due to its close conceptual proximity to autocracy, oligarchy, democracy, and related governance concepts. The difficulty of distinguishing between decentralization and democracy at a conceptual and (even more so) practical level is often noted (e.g. Delaney et al., 1996; Fiorito & Hendricks, 1987a). It is certainly possible to divide the two at conceptual levels. For example, centralization could be defined in terms of the union’s officers and staff only, and in that sense closely parallel conceptions used in business organizations. Then,

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one could define democracy solely in terms of the relation between members and officers. A problem with even this seemingly clear distinction lies in the nature of unions being by the members (Fiorito et al., 1993). That is, those carrying out the union’s work are not limited to formal staff. Union reliance on lay activists and members to carry out work on behalf of the union blurs the distinction between staff and membership, and thus contributes to blurring between centralization-decentralization in the administrative system and autocracy-democracy in the governance system. Nonetheless, researchers have posited and tested relations involving centralization for many years. These have progressed from single items with questionable face validity (e.g. Roomkin, 1976) to seemingly more sophisticated, almost certainly more reliable, and presumably more valid multi-item scales based on general conceptions in the organizational literature (e.g. Fiorito et al., 1995; Jarley et al., 1997). As a criterion, theorizing about centralization has emphasized the influence of union environments, goals, and strategies. In essence, the argument is that unions will structure their decision making to optimize their outcomes within a given environment (Fiorito et al., 1991). This is of course not to suggest that union structures at any point in time are optimal. There are founding effects (Stinchcombe, 1965), and unions change slowly, perhaps more slowly than business organizations due to their governance systems (Craft, 1991). Still, there has been some success in relating centralization to both conventional organization science variables representing environmental influences such as stability, munificence, and complexity, and to variables more unique to industrial relations literature representing market structure, employer, and union characteristics (e.g. Hendricks et al., 1993; Jarley et al., 1997, 1998). In sum, despite the complication of administrative-representative systems conflict, conventional organizational science and industrial relations seem to apply to the analysis of centralization in national unions. As a predictor, studies have typically emphasized the adverse potential impacts of centralization. For example, one could argue that local unions can contribute much to the design and conduct of organizing campaigns, and hence centralization would have an adverse effect on organizing outcomes. Similarly, and consistent with organizational science literature, one might expect centralization to impede innovation. Expectations for an adverse centralization impact have generally been borne out in studies of organizing effectiveness and perceived union (organizational) effectiveness (Fiorito et al., 1995, 1997, 2001). The evidence is largely unsupportive on the expected negative relation between centralization and innovation (Delaney et al., 1996; Fiorito et al., 2000a; Jarley et al., 1998, in press) and Jarley et al., (1998) suggested that factors relatively
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unique to unions, such as membership heterogeneity, may be more critical for innovation. Also, Fiorito and Jarley (1992) suggested the possibility that the development of innovations in unions may be enhanced by decentralization, while innovation’s diffusion may be aided by centralization. Theory and Research on Rationalization The virtues of rationalization have been noted (e.g. Barbash, 1969) and seem almost self-evident. Specialization, formalization, and the like are almost indispensable in large organizations, and studies have consistently linked these and many other aspects of rationalization with organization size (e.g. Warner, 1975). Recent analyses of union revitalization or renewal here and abroad cite important potential roles for national union bureaucracies and national union managerial practices, including reference to concepts such as formalization and specialization (Heery, 2001; Heery et al., 2000a; Voss & Sherman, 2000). Controversies arise in some important areas, however. Adler and Borus (1996), for instance, distinguished between “enabling” and “coercive” forms of bureaucracy, and it not difficult to extend this distinction to the concept of rationalization (along with centralization, one of the two distinct general dimensions of bureaucracy in Warner’s terms). The same specialization that allows the large union to apply appropriate expertise to complex technical problems (e.g. how to design a pension plan) also tends to shut out member influence as tasks become the province of experts who do not answer directly to the members. In a study of revitalization among local unions, Voss and Sherman framed their research question in terms of “how social movement organizations can break out of bureaucratic conservatism” (2000, p. 303). Thus conflicts can arise with democracy although these may be subtler than conflicts between centralization and democracy. The “tension” between administrative and representative systems (Child et al., 1973) can occur between the representative system and elements of both centralization and rationalization in the administrative system. Added to the familiar “line-staff” tensions noted in organizational literature (i.e. tension between centralization and rationalization for our purposes), the situation in unions is potentially quite complex. In addition, the virtues of rationalized bureaucracy are situational. By most accounts, bureaucracy is well suited to stable environments with routine tasks. Globalization of markets, de-regulation, and increased employer opposition easily come to mind as important sources of instability in the environments confronting many unions recently. One can argue that greater flexibility is needed. The mantra of “flexible specialization” may have its place in unions. Studies of rationalization in unions are few. As expected, size correlates directly with rationalization and some of its elements (Heery et al., 2000a; Jarley

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et al., 1998), but while this relation holds up for “administrative structural differentiation” in a multivariate model of rationalization, it is not borne out in a multivariate model of “administrative rationalization.” In fact, only one of the environmental variables examined is predictive of both criteria, and it has an opposite influence on each (Jarley et al., 1997). Studies of rationalization’s effect on union outcomes are mixed but broadly consistent within outcome areas. Specifically, rationalization has been found to be a key predictor of innovation (Delaney et al., 1996; Jarley et al., in press) and of information technology (IT) use (Fiorito et al., 2000a). Consistent with this finding, Heery et al. (2000b) reported that rationalization (specifically formalization) is associated with adoption of the organizing model. There is mixed evidence on rationalization’s relation with leaders’ perceptions of effectiveness (i.e. from positive to not evident; Fiorito et al., 1997, 2001). There is almost no systematic evidence of any positive relation between rationalization and organizing effectiveness, and in some cases the results for rationalization appear to be disconfirming (Fiorito et al., 1995, 2001). Consistent with the lack of findings already noted, Charlwood (2001) found no evidence of a relation between national union structure (specifically, structure for organizing) and organizing success in the U.K. Charlwood, however, did find a positive relation between union structuring at the workplace level and organizing effectiveness in previously nonunion workplaces. Further, in their study of union locals, Voss and Sherman (2000) found that the national union’s bureaucracy played a key role in initiating change in those locals that revitalized. Structuring rewards (e.g. matching funds) to encourage local organizing is one such initiative they cite, and very clearly fits in with our conception of rationalization. All told, the evidence is scant regarding the determinants of rationalization (beyond the familiar size effect) and less clear when possible subdimensions of rationalization are considered. It is fairly clear that rationalization contributes to innovation in unions, consistent with results on organizations elsewhere (Damanpour, 1991). Studies of effects on outcomes such as organizing effectiveness and overall union effectiveness suggest little impact in some instances (e.g. Fiorito et al., 1995) but perhaps a very important impact in others (e.g. Voss & Sherman, 2000). Also, while rationalization’s impact on such outcomes is less clear, its impact on innovation, which in turn affects other outcomes such as organizing, is strong. Distinctions in dimensions of rationalization or types of bureaucracy, and situational considerations may warrant more attention in future research. For example, research assessing convergent and discriminant validity among concepts including administrative structuring, administrative rationalization, and
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managerial competence could be useful, along with similar research focused on the distinction between Adler and Borus’ (1996) “enabling” and “coercive” forms of bureaucracy. It is important to know whether various aspects of bureaucracy affect outcomes differentially, and if effects are situational or not. Such research may help clarify the meaning of conflicting results for broader concepts such as rationalization as a predictor of different outcomes (e.g. innovation versus organizing effectiveness). Democracy and Governance Structures As we have noted elsewhere, as have others in various terms, unions are unique in being organizations for, by, and of the membership (Fiorito et al., 1993). In addition to administrative systems designed to run the day-to-day business of the union, unions must maintain representative systems to form goals, specify the rules that govern the organization, and to choose and monitor leaders who are accountable to the members to direct organizational efforts in pursuit of those goals. Representative and administrative systems serve different purposes and their structures reflect different influences (Jarley et al., 1997). While governance and administrative structures are distinct, in practice lines can blur between exercising discretion within one’s legitimate scope of authority and illegitimate assumption of authority. Thus, there is considerable opportunity for tension between the systems designed to carry out the governance and administrative functions (Child et al., 1973). Debate about the degree and effects of such tensions has centered around Michel’s “Iron Law of Oligarchy,” which posits that the representative system (and therefore democracy) is inevitably overwhelmed by the administrative system and a considerable amount of literature has challenged its veracity (e.g. Knoke, 1990; Voss & Sherman, 2000). For some, concern about the level of democracy within unions goes beyond normative issues (i.e. unions should be democratic), and extends to a hypothesized link between democracy and effectiveness. (e.g. Fiorito et al., 1993; Strauss, 1991). Democracy is seen as a key element of efforts to legitimize union goals and policies, maintain member satisfaction with the union and promote the voluntary rank-and-file activity necessary to achieve and sustain union power (i.e. membership mobilization). Of course, the particulars of any assessment will depend upon one’s definition of democracy, and there are many possible definitions (Strauss, 1991). There are probably even more ways to measure democracy, and unfortunately, none has emerged as a clearly reliable and valid indicator (Jarley et al., 2000). Examinations have included officer turnover, closeness of elections, member participation, frequency of elections and conventions, whether executive board

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members are elected by district or at-large, and perceived influence of members, among others. In some instances, these indicators have been operationalized in terms of constitutional provisions, and in others via behavioral or attitudinal indicators. Not surprisingly, this diverse set of concepts and indicators has led to conflicting results and interpretations. Jarley et al. (1997) might be the only study that has examined influences on a democracy indicator (“representative structures”) at an organizational level. They found a modest link with potential bargaining unit capacity (i.e. well-paid members in larger establishments), and a strong link with centralized decision making. The latter supports suggestions that representative structures are used to balance centralization; that is a system of “checks and balances” (Fiorito & Hendricks, 1987a). Relatively few studies have actually tested for democracy effects. Jarley et al. (1997) found no evidence supporting a hypothesized effect on concentration of decision making. Delaney et al. (1996) and Jarley et al. (in press) reported conflicting results on the relationship between democracy and innovation. Delaney et al. (1999) found no effect on political activity, although Delaney et al. (1988) did find a negative democracy effect in one of six specifications. Fiorito et al. (1995) found no evidence for a hypothesized positive effect on organizing among most indicators of organizing effectiveness, but they did find mixed evidence of a positive effect on union leaders’ self-reported organizing effectiveness. Maranto and Fiorito (1987) found some evidence of a positive democracy effect on union success in representation elections. Yet, neither Fiorito et al. (1997) nor Jarley et al. (1998) found evidence of a link between democracy indicators and perceived union effectiveness. When one considers the poor measurement properties of the types of measures often used in union democracy studies, the diversity of results is predictable, apart from the diversity of concepts. This state of affairs led Jarley et al. (2000) to suggest a different approach. Instead of attempting to define and assess the elusive and value-laden phenomenon of democracy, they proposed that scholars take a step back to look at the bigger issue of “governance systems.” Governance systems are described as “structures designed to identify, legitimize, and foster member commitment to organizational goals and leaders” (Jarley et al., 2000, p. 228). Considering prior literature and the national union constitutions that define union governance systems, Jarley et al. proposed five basic dimensions: codification, division of authority, federation, member access, and activity. Relations among these dimensions are considered conceptually, and then empirically based on correlational analysis of content-coded national union constitutions. Finally, Jarley et al. conducted a cluster analysis based on these governance dimensions,
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examined the resulting groupings, and related characteristics of these groups to union environments and governance outcomes (i.e. cluster profiling). The findings were mixed. There was generally found to be support for expectations about the relations among governance system dimensions, and environmental characteristics and governance outcomes (e.g. perceived democracy) tended to correlate with governance dimensions. The cluster analysis results were generally encouraging in that they formed four groups that were interpretable and generally sensible. The four different governance systems identified seem to correspond to other known characteristics of the unions and their environments. An interesting result is that all five unions identified as involving serious corrupt or undemocratic practices by a 1980s Presidential Commission appeared in the same cluster, one in which local product markets, divided union authority, and codified governance provisions are common. Jarley et al. (2000) had little success, however, in linking cluster membership systematically to environmental characteristics or governance outcomes. They suggested that reasons for poor results regarding environments could be founding effects (Stinchcombe, 1965); that is, that current governance structures reflect historical influences and thus cannot be expected to relate closely to current environment. Overall, the approach seems promising, and further empirical assessment is warranted. Notably, this approach casts union governance in terms that are more readily generalized to a wide range of organizations than is democracy. Although trends toward empowering employees in work organizations may not amount to democratization, all organizations have governance systems. Issues of how these are to be configured to meet environmental contingencies, and their impact on governance outcomes, are salient to many organizational forms.

INNOVATION AND EFFECTIVENESS
Organizational scholars sometimes refer to effectiveness as “the ultimate dependent variable in organizational research” (Cameron & Whetten 1983b, p. 2). This concept is broader than notions of profitability or efficiency and its measurement is frequently complicated by the presence of multiple organizational interests, each with different objectives and preferences. Unions are a case in point. Differences between members and leaders and among the membership itself over the relative importance of servicing current members versus organizing new members, or stressing social over workplace goals makes it difficult to arrive at a valid measure of global effectiveness. Because many of these conceptual issues have been dealt with elsewhere in general

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terms (e.g. Cameron & Whetten, 1983a), and in the context of unions (Fiorito et al., 1993; Hammer & Wazeter, 1993), we do not review them here. Instead, we turn attention to empirical research on national union innovation and effectiveness. Although innovation is not an end itself, it has been closely linked to effectiveness outcomes (Bronfenbrenner, 1997; Fiorito et al., 1995, 1997; Jarley et al., 1998; Shostak, 1991), and thus constitutes a reasonable penultimate variable for analysis in the study of unions as organizations. Indeed, many impressionistic analyses of U.S. unions emphasize a lack of innovation in the face of changing environments as a critical failing (e.g. Craft, 1991; Shostak, 1991). Conversely, recent signs of innovation in American unions (e.g. the call for a transformation from a servicing to organizing orientation) are sometimes hailed as something to be emulated by unions elsewhere (Carter, 2001). Research on Union Innovation Studies of particular innovations date back to at least 1990 (e.g. Fiorito & Jarley, 1992; Jarley & Fiorito, 1990; Jarley & Maranto, 1990; Shostak, 1991). Analyses of innovation as a general phenomenon are more recent (e.g. Delaney et al., 1996; Jarley et al., in press). Although the organizational science literature suggests that innovation is a product of decentralization, neither Delaney et al. or Jarley et al. found a positive link between decentralization and innovation within unions. Results with respect to democracy are even murkier, with Delaney et al. reporting some negative effects, and Jarley et al. reporting an opposite finding. Instead, both studies underscore the importance of resources (i.e. as measured by membership size), rationalization, and strategic planning in union innovation. Membership heterogeneity also appears to play a role, perhaps because more diverse unions have greater opportunities to engage in mimetic behavior or because a more diverse membership requires unions to experiment with a wider array of strategies and tactics to meet member needs. The two studies also attempt to link variations in union innovation to differences in union environments to very limited effect, leading Delaney et al. (1996) to speculate that the general crisis in union membership may serve as a relatively uniform incentive for all unions to innovate. Applying a variant of the Delaney et al. (1996) model to information technology (IT) use, Fiorito et al. (2000a) found roughly comparable results (particularly as compared to Delaney et al.’s perceived innovation and innovative tactics results). Rationalization (inclusive of an item on environmental scanning) and size are found to be consistent positive predictors of IT use. In contrast to the Delaney et al. and Jarley et al. studies, Fiorito et al. found some evidence that decentralization has a positive impact on IT use. They also extend
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the model to consider union strategy, without apparent effect, and to employer IT use and prior innovation. They found some evidence that employer IT use is a positive influence (i.e. mimetic behavior or perhaps a “keeping up with the competition effect”), and that previously innovative unions are likely to use IT most extensively. Taken together, the evidence suggests that innovation is less a product of environment than of union characteristics. Concerns about the adequacy of the environmental measures employed in the literature to date serve to temper this conclusion, but the evidence suggests that much of what is necessary to invoke change in unions is within their control. Achieving such change may be a slow process, but a well-administered union with adequate resources can place itself in a position to identify, develop and adopt new methods and services in an effort to become more effective. Research on Organizing and Union Effectiveness There are a good number of penultimate variables that one could examine under the broader heading of union effectiveness. Fiorito et al. (1993) propose six penultimate goals: bargaining, politics, self-help, organizing, member solidarity, and resource acquisition. Yet, only organizing (Charlwood, 2001; Fiorito et al., 1995, 2001) and overall union performance (Fiorito et al., 1997; Jarley et al., 1998) have been examined directly in attempts to assess effectiveness on a union-by-union basis among national unions. (But see Hammer and Wazeter [1993] for a broad set of measures for union effectiveness among local unions.) Although focused on NLRB elections, the Maranto and Fiorito (1987) study is also relevant since winning elections is an element of organizing effectiveness and that study relates election outcomes to union organizational characteristics. Union leader perceptions of their own union’s effectiveness correlate with a number of union and environmental characteristics, and results are generally consistent across differing levels of analysis (e.g. individual or organizational), statistical methods (bivariate correlations versus multivariate regression), and time periods (1990 and 1997 data have been examined). These results indicate that perceived effectiveness is positively linked to size, rationalization, innovation, scope of issues (or breadth of strategy), membership heterogeneity, and environmental scanning. Perceived effectiveness is fairly consistently linked negatively to centralization, and in some instances, to employer opposition (Fiorito et al., 1997, 2001; Jarley et al., 1998; Maranto & Fiorito, 1987). Results for organizing effectiveness are broadly similar, although they vary somewhat with alternative indicators (e.g. NLRB election win rates, membership growth, and perceived organizing effectiveness). One notable difference arises for

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rationalization measures. Although rationalization sometimes displays a positive bivariate relation to organizing effectiveness indicators, there is no multivariate evidence in support of this hypothesized relation. Also, some additional environmental variables that are particularly relevant to organizing (i.e. representing employment growth and worker attitudes) have produced mixed results. Most significant in our mind is the innovation to effectiveness link. Results from both studies of leadership perceptions of effectiveness and from studies of organizing effectiveness suggest innovation has a strong positive impact on such outcomes. Combined with our earlier discussion of the determinants of innovation, our reading of the literature to date suggests unions have direct control over several important factors that shape their future. By increasing size and rationalizing administrative structures, unions can enhance innovation, and through innovation they influence effectiveness. Whether such change can result in a resurgence in unionism is an open question. Although empirical models can identify factors that explain variation in measures of interest, such variation needs to be placed in the proper context. In this regard, it should be noted that both the studies that employed objective and subjective indicators of organizing or global union effectiveness took place in a period of relative union decline. The analyses identify those unions that did and felt that they did relatively better than others over the period, but few if any unions experienced dramatic improvements in their fortunes.

EMERGENT ISSUES
Although there are many particular topics that one could address under the heading of “national unions as organizations,” two in particular strike us as currently at issue and deserving attention. These are union renewal and the organizing model, and information technology. Union Renewal and the Organizing Model Union renewal (or revitalization) generally refers to union efforts to reverse their decline. Although there is some debate about the meaning of particular terms such as renewal, there is general consensus that unions in several advanced industrial nations, including the U.S. and Britain, have declined substantially, and need to restore their vitality through membership growth. In examining the U.S. case, Hurd (1998) referred to the need for unions to “contest the dinosaur image.” That is, unions need to reestablish their relevance in today’s society to turnaround the sort of “dinosaur” perception alluded to at the opening of this essay. Hurd provided a cogent historical review of how U.S.
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unions came to their present predicament. He reviewed how the AFL-CIO leadership of the 1980s and early 1990s belatedly accepted the need for change, and initially favored structural changes (e.g. creating a new department focused on organizing, establishing the Organizing Institute to provide a school for organizers). Although such changes may have ultimately contributed to a turnaround, by the mid-1990s, there was a growing sense that the AFL-CIO’s reform initiatives were offering too little too late, leading to a change in AFL-CIO leadership, the new Sweeney administration. The key thrust of the new administration has been an emphasis on organizing. In a broader context, this is part of an emphasis on activism and mobilization (Hurd, 1998). But clearly the emphasis is on organizing. Sweeney set a goal of spending 30% of union budgets on organizing by 2000. No one knows what the corresponding percent was in 1995 when Sweeney took office. Most observers estimate it was less than 5%, and a 1997 survey showed that national unions estimated they were spending about 12% of their budgets, on average, on organizing at that time (Fiorito, Jarley & Delaney, 1998). (It seems quite likely these self-reported figures were a bit inflated given the social desirability effect in the context of public calls from Sweeney and others for much higher percentages.) Along with a philosophical and budgetary commitment to organizing, a key element of Sweeney’s program has been the promotion of the “organizing model” (OM), although its development preceded his leadership of the AFL-CIO by several years (Hurd, 1998). Interpretations of this “model” vary, and the discussion following simplifies for illustration. The OM is generally seen to involve an emphasis on worker activism and mobilization in the pursuit of new members, bargaining and political effectiveness, and social justice. In many respects, it is a return to the mutual aid logic that governed union organization and development in the American labor movement’s formative years (Bacharach, Bamberger & Sonnenstuhl, 2001). It is often contrasted with the “servicing model” (SM). In its simplest form, the SM refers to the idea of union members paying dues in exchange for services. It stands for a passive membership who look upon their union membership as a sort of insurance policy, their union as a sort of vending machine. In the SM, workers ask “what can the union do for us?” In the OM, workers ask “what can we do through the union?” As Hurd put it: “Under the organizing model, the role of the union would be to help workers find collective solutions to their work-related concerns” (1998, p. 23). In principle, the budgetary objective and the OM are complementary. Unions spend a great portion of their resource servicing current members. If those members can be made more self-reliant, resources can be freed to undertake

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additional organizing. Further, the worker activism of the OM is an ongoing educational process helping to reinforce the idea that the union is of, by, and for the members, not “something other” or “a thing apart,” some external specialist like an auto club that is called only in emergencies. The two polar views of the OM and SM are useful in pointing out the contrasts between them, and in underscoring just what calls for adoption of the OM involve in relation to past practices (i.e. practices that have entailed much of what is wrong with the SM). Yet, it is increasingly recognized that the OM vs. SM “debate” is counterproductive in its extreme forms. Not all members want to be activists, nor does the union need 100% activism. Many workers understandably ask why they should pay dues if not for union services. Good union service to members, like quality products, help to enhance the union’s reputation and increase demand for its services (i.e. aid organizing). Hurd suggested that for some of these and other reasons, including the difficulty and expense of mobilizing workers or members, unions have shifted emphasis. The redirection is toward “building an ‘organizing culture,’ or promoting ‘transformation’ to a new style of unionism which aims to increase market share, though its particulars are not yet clear” (Hurd, 1998, p. 24). Katz, Batt and Keefe (2001) described the particulars of revitalization within the Communication Workers of America (CWA). They emphasized the complementarity of organizing and servicing within the CWA’s transformation efforts, along with political activities (in a traditionally regulated environment still very sensitive to government actions). They also stressed that the CWA’s transformation efforts are grounded in “institutional legacies,” rather than alien transplants to the CWA, and suggested that this is an important reason for apparent success in the transformation efforts. Similarly, institutional legacies and collective memory were key parts of Bacharach, Bamberger and Sonnenstuhl’s (2001) analysis of union renewal. They argued that the collective memory of older workers and retirees is an important resource that can help reactivate union abeyance structures – dormant practices and cultural beliefs, such as using the logic and practice of mutual aid to build members’ normative commitment to the union. In examining revitalization efforts among various national unions’ local affiliates, Fletcher and Hurd (2001) found that key obstacles include a lack of planning, managerial skills, and support from higher levels in the union. These results accord with Katz et al. (2001) in that higher level support is part of the institutional context. Although in slightly different terms for the two studies, the role of the national union and its associated institutional context is evident in both studies, as it is with the study by Voss and Sherman (2000) cited earlier. Further, the emphasis on planning, structuring rewards to achieve
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desired behavior, and managerial competence all underscore the importance of leadership and factors we have described earlier as part of the rationalization concept. Reviewing current thinking on union renewal in Britain, Heery (2002) identified three general perspectives. These could be called “environmental,” “renewal,” and “agency” views. Environmental views emphasize one or more changes in union environments, their adverse effect on unions, and prescriptions for organizational change to meet the challenges and bring about organizational turnaround. Four distinct environmental threats Heery identified are: (1) The emergence and diffusion of high performance work systems that are incompatible with traditional adversarial union-management relations; (2) Intensified competitive pressures leading to degradation of employment terms; (3) Growing individualism among workers challenging the collective orientation of unions; and (4) Growing schisms among workers along gender, sexual preference, racial, occupational, and other lines, challenging union efforts to provide a unified voice for workers. The prescriptions for change vary with the threat identified, of course, but in brief the respective solutions for unions are: (1) More emphasis on partnership with employers; (2) Greater militancy; (3) A more consumerist or at least individualized approach to addressing member needs; and (4) “Equality structures.” Under the heading of “renewal theories,” Heery (2002) identified two very different perspectives. Both posit a divergence of interests between rankand-file members and the union “officialdom” (i.e. officers and staff), but thereafter the analyses diverge. In one, the need is for a “challenge from below” (i.e. greater activism on the part of the rank-and-file and workplace organization are needed to respond to decentralization in bargaining and degradation in employment terms). The second renewal perspective requires a “challenge from above” in the sense that union problems are attributed to the tendency of members to focus on short-term narrow interests. In this analysis, the officialdom needs to guide union strategic and financial decisions in favor of organizing (i.e. a “new managerialism” is required in unions). Finally, Heery’s (2002) agency theory perspectives assume that member interests are ill-defined, and the key question is how the officialdom, particularly top officers, define union interests. Various options for leaders (e.g. external structure, goals, methods) are emphasized as part of a “strategic choice” perspective, while the characteristics of top leaders are emphasized in a “leadership” perspective variant of the agency theory view. Space does not permit a more detailed review of Heery’s (2002) analysis. One key point is that there are a number of distinct, although variously overlapping lenses that one can apply to the analysis of union decline and

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renewal. Another is that there are remarkable similarities in issues across the Atlantic, although terms may differ. Most generally, and importantly, examining unions as organizations provides a useful framework for understanding the challenges that unions face. Information Technology
Now and then the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battle lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever-expanding union of the workers. This union is helped by the improved means of communication that are created by modern industry, and that place the workers in different localities in contact with one another (Marx & Engels, 1996, p. 21).

Is information technology (IT) just another innovation for unions? Opinions on IT’s importance for society vary greatly, of course. At the extreme, some regard current IT developments as revolutionary (i.e. putting the current “information revolution” on a par with the earlier industrial revolution). Skeptics stress that it is easy to exaggerate the importance of contemporary changes, and quite possibly future historians may see no particular significance in the current information revolution. Yet, information is a critical issue for unions, and information management has long been a critical function for unions (Fiorito et al., 2000a; Fiorito, Jarley, Delaney & Kolodinsky, 2000b). One does not need to be a Marxist to see considerable potential significance in IT developments, and several observers suggest that contemporary IT developments may hold particular importance for unions (Diamond & Freeman, 2000; Greer, in press; Lee, 1997; Shostak, 1999). IT is clearly changing the nature of work. For many, work no longer involves a workplace, at least not in the traditional sense. If there is no workplace, can there be a union? How will union governance be affect by IT? Member participation in union governance is inhibited by the costs of accessing information on the union’s affairs and the costs of participation. How are these costs affected by IT developments? Organizing and servicing workers are expensive undertakings for unions. One traditional tactic unions have used to signal their commitment to an organizing campaign is to rent an office or building near the worksite to establish their presence. Can a website establish a virtual presence to similar effect for much lower cost? A leader of a British union has proposed abolishing dues payments in favor of charging workers for access to information via call centers and on-line access. A number of American unions claim that IT has played a critical role in important recent organizing and bargaining successes (Fiorito
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et al., 2000b, 2001). Another British union is rapidly enhancing its on-line resources to complement its existing call center for member services. Transnational unionism has long been inhibited by communications problems. As globalization of economies proceeds, along with IT developments, however, the possibilities for effective transnational unionism take on renewed importance. These examples illustrate the wide range of potential IT impacts for unions. They also illustrate the depth of potential impacts. It varies from simply doing better that which unions already do to doing different things in different ways. That is, the “what” that unions do and the “how” in which they do it may be affected enormously. In effect, IT is potentially a transforming influence on unions (Shostak, 1999). It is not difficult to identify conceptual links between some of the key issues in the debate on union renewal (e.g. providing individualized services, more effective management of unions, possibilities for coordination among rank-and-file activists, contesting the dinosaur image) and IT. Of course, it is easy to be seduced by the hype surrounding IT, and the business experience to date can be sobering. IT has changed much in the way that business is done, but at the same time the rapid transition from “dot.com” to “dot.flop” that we have seen repeated in many cases cautions against great expectations. Nonetheless, it seems likely that future analyses of unions will have to pay close attention to IT issues.

CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS
The literature on unions as organizations has shed some light on the inner workings of national unions, but several dark spots remain. Progress has been greatest in identifying and mapping the key features of national union administrative systems. In addition to size, rationalization, centralization, and innovation seem especially important in distinguishing among national unions, but membership heterogeneity may also play an important role. The rationalization-innovation link seems especially strong and both variables may be indicators of the general administrative competence of the union. The map of union governance systems is less complete. The organizational science literature has served as less of a guide in developing concepts and measures of union governance systems, but we would argue that the fixation on the value-laden concept of democracy has also hampered research in this area by steering researchers away from considering contingency and strategic contingency approaches to this topic. A refocus on the broader notion of governance systems may permit use of a wider array of theories and measures that will ultimately produce greater insight.

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Links between the key union structures and the other elements of our simple causal model are even less well established. One critical area of concern involves national union environments and their link to both union structures and outcomes. Translating concepts and measures from other literatures to the national union context has proved problematic, and without sound measures of the environment it is difficult to establish the extent to which union structures are rational consequences of their environments or the relative contribution of environment and organizational structure to organizational performance. Although not without its own set of problems, it might be useful for future research to focus on union leader perceptions of their environment, or combine such assessments with more objective measures. Such perceptual measures avoid the problems associated with efforts by researchers to map industry-based measures to national unions via diluted primary jurisdictions or the creation of synthetic environments based on weighted averages of industry characteristics. Leader perceptions of the environment also seem especially salient since they are key decision-makers in any effort to instigate and implement structural reforms. A second key area of concern involves the link between strategy and structure. Quantitative research has done a poor job of adequately specifying and measuring both union goals and strategies in a manner that reveals meaningful distinctions between U.S. unions. However, while we would certainly acknowledge the fundamental importance of goals to both organizational structures and effectiveness, we suspect that goals impact organizational activity and performance largely through strategy. As a result, we see emphasis on developing a sound understanding of the strategy-to- structure link as crucial to advancing our understanding of national unions as organizations. The extant literature has focused more on the scope, than substance, of union strategy to the detriment of advancing both theory and practice. No single issue has dominated the practitioner literature on unions as organizations more than the AFL-CIO campaign to shift national and local union priorities from servicing current members to encouraging union member activism in the pursuit of organizing more members and engaging in various forms of self-help. Aside from changes in budget priorities, such a shift in strategy would appear to require significant changes in both union administrative (e.g. decentralization of decision-making, better communication systems between units, more education programs for union members), and governance systems (e.g. more mechanisms for member input into decisions and control of the administrative system). Yet, the literature on national unions as organizations has come at these issues only indirectly through the study of innovation. It has focused more on what organizational characteristics might position unions to engage in
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organizational change than on how the choice to engage in such a strategic transformation influences or clashes with internal union structures. Given that the shift toward an organizing model (or organizing culture) is the centerpiece of AFL-CIO efforts to reverse union fortunes, this omission is especially surprising and an obvious area for future research. Much work needs to be done here. Paradoxically, one interpretation of the literature to date suggests that such a transformation to an organizing model or culture may be most likely to be achieved in relatively autocratic, business-like unions where leaders have the power to order change and manage an evolution toward greater democratic participation by the membership. This, in effect, sounds much like Heery’s (2002) “managerial renewal.” A final obvious hole in the research on national unions as organizations is the human element. With the exception of work by Clark and his colleagues (e.g. Clark & Gray, 1991, 2001; Clark, Gray, Gilbert & Solomon, 1998), little effort has been made to explore the various human resource policies unions pursue and how these might relate to union strategy and effectiveness. The presence of a formal human resource policy can be viewed as yet another dimension of rationalization. Evidence from the strategic human resource management literature might be used to link specific human resource policies to specific union strategies in a manner that would provide much more guidance to union leaders interested in enhancing union performance. A key link yet to be explored is the relation between union HR practices and union outcomes such as effectiveness and innovation. Even more distressing in this regard is the relative absence of union members from analyses of unions as organizations. Superficial membership characteristics have been used in the development of measures of membership heterogeneity for national unions. As yet, no real effort has been made to examine union member goals, preferences, or working conditions that might influence their willingness and ability to work on behalf of the union in a unions-as-organizations context (i.e. in a way that allows comparisons across unions and thus an exploration of the link between union characteristics and member attitudes). Obviously, the data requirements are formidable, but the payoffs to such an undertaking could be great. A deeper understanding of members’ views would seem especially important in developing a better theory of how different union governance structures develop to meet the different challenges posed in identifying, legitimizing, and fostering member commitment to union goals and leaders. It could also contribute greatly to assessments of union effectiveness in servicing and bargaining. Ultimately, research on unions as organizations is about union effectiveness and survival. Yet, we are less concerned about the relative lack of research on global assessments of union effectiveness than we are about the emphasis

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on organizing outcomes to the neglect of other important facets of union performance. The focus on organizing effectiveness is partly a product of the contemporary crisis in union membership and density, and partly a product of views of organizing as a “supra-” or “meta-strategy” given its necessity to achieve virtually all union goals (Fiorito et al., 1991). But it is also driven by data convenience. We would not dispute the importance of organizing in reversing union fortunes, but we noted at the outset of this paper that U.S. unions are ultimately bargaining organizations, and it is unlikely that unions can achieve organizing gains without demonstrating that they are effective bargaining agents for their members. To members on a day-to-day basis, the union’s ability to provide service (e.g. work-related information or assistance with grievances) is fundamental. Few would also disagree that organizing effectiveness could not be enhanced or diminished by changes in government regulation, and thus union political effectiveness is also crucial to union success. There are important synergies among the various dimensions of union effectiveness. The relatively straightforward inferences that might be made by examining results from studies of organizing effectiveness and innovation suggest that unions can engage in organizational engineering that will enhance their prospects. Still, it would be comforting to see similar links between innovation and other dimensions of union effectiveness before concluding that unions that strive to be “new” are also likely to be “improved.” Unions are usefully understood as organizations, albeit unique organizations in important ways. National unions are typically larger and more “organizationlike” (e.g. more formalized) than local unions, and thus generalizations drawn from the study of national unions may be less applicable in local unions and particularly small local unions. Studies at all levels (e.g. locals, nationals, central councils, transnational bodies) are needed to map more fully the phenomenon of unions. Some researchers will continue to study individual union members with little regard to the characteristics of their unions, while others will continue to regard unions as a “black box” of importance chiefly as the basis for creating a dummy variable to assess some “union” effect. Such studies have value for various purposes. Still, to advance understanding of unions as organizations, researchers need to analyze them as such, paying attention to their environments, goals, strategies, structures, processes, and outcomes.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We wish to thank our many respondents to the National Union Survey and Survey of Union Information Technology for their invaluable assistance. We are also grateful to several current and former AFL-CIO officials, especially
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Tom Donahue, Charlie McDonald, and Rudy Oswald, for their support and encouragement. We would also like to thank David Ketchen, Bruce Lamont, and Lex Donaldson for their guidance in helping us identify important work in the organizational theory and strategic management literatures. Finally, we are indebted to many research assistants who have worked on various parts of our research on unions over the years.

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