Gender Democracy in Trade Unions

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In 1993, the largest UK union, UNISON, created an innovative framework for empowering women. This is the first in-depth study of UNISON's claims to put women at the heart of the union. Detailed interviews with activists and case studies of decision-making bodies show how different membership groups exploit equal opportunities strategies to facilitate or impede women. These case studies expose the conundrum of understanding women as a differentiated but distinct membership group. They illustrate why women activists need to be understood in their diverse and multiple roles of being low paid workers, black women, lesbians and members of political parties but also demonstrate that women are most empowered when treated as an oppressed social group. The theoretical issues and practical realities addressed in this multi-faceted study are of relevance to all academics and activists involved in the study and practice of trade unions and equal opportunities.
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Editorial Reviews

Cynthia Cockburn
UNISONS bold experiment with union democracy deserved the very best of our analytical powers - and Anne McBride delivers in full. Every trade unionist, woman or man, should read this perceptive and unflinching account of an important innovation.
John Kelly
Gender Democracy in Trade Unions is a pathbreaking study of a unique and radical experiment in union organization and women's rights. UNISON's attempt to translate the rhetoric of equal rights into reality is critically but sympathetically anlysed in this wide ranging study. The book is rich in empirical data and theoretically far more sophisticated than any comparable study in the field. It is a first rate contribution to our knowledge that should be read by policymakers, union activists and academics alike.
Some might say such a book need not be longer than a paragraph or two, while others might consider it appropriate for the fantasy section. But McBride (U. of Warwick) looks at struggles rather than conditions. She examines attempts by the largest British trade union, UNISON, to support the equality of representation and participation among its female-dominated membership. She argues that union structures must be built around principles of individual and group representation. She has not indexed her work. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780754611820
  • Publisher: Ashgate Publishing, Limited
  • Publication date: 5/1/2001
  • Pages: 202
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 8.07 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables
List of Abbreviations
1 Introduction 1
2 Making Sense of Democracy 9
3 UNISON in the Making 33
4 Women Gaining Access 49
5 Taking Part in the Electoral Process 71
6 Fair Representation and Diversity 78
7 The Role of Women's Self-Organisation 95
8 Making a Difference in Local Government? 123
9 Making a Difference at Regional Level? 145
10 The Reshaping of Democracy? 167
Appendix 182
Bibliography 186
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