This article presents fresh empirical data showing that policy alignment between center-left governments and trade unions was a sustained feature of European politics between 1974 and 2005. This contradicts expectations of a wide delinkage between the electoral left and labor as a consequence of globalization, deindustrialization, and unionization decline. However, structural economic change has altered the policy field so that sustained policy alignment can no longer be explained by existing theoretical frameworks.
Based on a theoretical argument and a multivariate empirical test, the article contends that policy alignment is likelier to occur if labor plays an important role in economic management at the microlevel and the industry level and if unions are politically cohesive agents thanks to powerful confederation leadership supported by democratic decision-making practices. In making its case, the article bridges the literatures on comparative capitalism and party politics, in order to account for change and continuity in policy-making processes