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European Unions

Labor's Quest for a Transnational Democracy

Roland Erne

Publication Year: 2008

Roland Erne's view of transnational trade union networks challenges the assertion that no realistic prospect exists for remedying the European Union's democratic deficit-that is, its domination by corporate interests and lack of a cohesive European people. His book describes the emergence of a European trade union movement that crosses national boundaries. Erne assesses national and EU-level trade union politics in two core areas: wage bargaining in the European Monetary Union and job protection during transnational corporate mergers and restructuring. The wage coordination policies of the European metal and construction workers' unions and the unions' responses in the ABB-Alstom Power and Alcan-Pechiney-Algroup merger cases, Erne finds, show that the activities of labor are not confined to the national level: labor's policies have undergone Europeanization. This cross-national borrowing of tactics is itself proof of the increasing integration of European states and societies.

European Unions is based on an exceptionally wide range of research methods, including statistical analysis, participant observation, and interviews with EU-level, national, and local trade unionists and works councilors. It also draws on a wide range of European, German, French, Italian, and Swiss union documents and a multilingual body of academic literature across several disciplines, including political science, sociology, and law. Erne's multilevel inquiry goes beyond country-by-country comparisons of national cases and his book will prove of great relevance to readers interested in the future of labor, social justice, and democracy in an increasingly integrated world.

Published by: Cornell University Press


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pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 3-8


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This book calls on my two decades of experiences as a unionist, political science student, and labor relations lecturer in Zurich, Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Florence, and Dublin. I cannot list here the names of the unionists, works councilors, colleagues, and friends who supported my research with their experiences and ideas, not to mention practical assistance. ...


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pp. xi-xiv

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-8

When the legitimacy of European governance structures is debated, it is generally acknowledged that the European Union (EU) is facing a democratic deficit (Héritier 1999; European Commission 2003b). Conversely, however, it has been argued that the EU cannot be democratized because there is no European society as such, no ...

Part I. Analytical Framework

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2. Approaching Euro-Democracy and Its Alternatives

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pp. 11-28

After the fall of most dictatorships in the early 1990s, democracy might seem to be the only uncontested form of government left. However, despite this global resurgence of democracy (Diamond and Plattner 1996), democracy is also facing a twofold crisis. ...

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3. Do Unions Have an Interest in Euro-Democratization?

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pp. 29-46

The activities that unions adopted in response to the EU integration process reflect two factors: the restrictions of the power of labor in the given political and socioeconomic context and the gains expected by labor that are associated with alternative EU developments. ...

Part II. European Labor Wage-Bargaining Strategies

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4. Wage Policy and the European Monetary Union

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pp. 49-56

The national wage-bargaining systems of Europe are exposed to increased pressures due to the establishment of the single market, the European Monetary Union (EMU), and the process of economic globalization. Whereas we can observe an organized decentralization of wage-bargaining systems in some countries, in others centralized social pacts have been concluded. ...

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5. The Rise of National Competitive Corporatism

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pp. 57-79

Since the adoption of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, we can observe a real wage trajectory in Western Europe that fails to fully match the growth of productivity. Does that mean that European trade unions have actively supported wage-moderation policies? ...

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6. European Wage-Bargaining Coordination Networks: Insights from the Manufacturing and the Construction Industry

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pp. 80-95

Since 1993, real wages have stopped following productivity growth in almost all eurozone countries. Chapter 5 shows that many unions accepted this development either to confront an economic crisis or to increase the international competitiveness of their own economy. ...

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7. Beyond Competitive Corporatism?: Insights from Germany, France, and Italy

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pp. 96-116

The unions of the Doorn group, the EMF, and the ETUC agreed to joint European wage-bargaining benchmarks in order to limit downward pressures on wages. However, it is still possible that some unions are pursuing a technocratic renationalization strategy to enhance the competitive position of their own countries, ...

Part III. Responses by Labor to Transnational Company Mergers

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8. The European Regulation of Transnational Company Mergers

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pp. 119-127

Given the institutional framework of EU competition policy, it is reasonable to think that organized labor cannot influence the regulation of cross-border mergers. Yet unions have increasingly been trying to influence EU competition policy. Their activities, however, have differed considerably. ...

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9. A Euro-Democratization Union Strategy: The ABB Alstom Power Case

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pp. 128-156

On April 10, 2000, about 2,000 workers, mostly from France, Germany, Belgium, and Italy, demonstrated in Brussels to protest against plans by ABB Alstom Power to cut a fifth of its workforce. They were protesting against the Commission for its failure to consult labor before approving the merger between the ABB and Alstom power divisions. ...

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10. A Euro-Technocratization Union Strategy: The Alcan-Pechiney-Algroup Case

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pp. 157-185

On August 11, 1999, the Canadian Alcan, the French Pechiney, and the Swiss Algroup announced a joint merger project to create the world’s largest aluminum company, called APA.1 The company executives expected that the postmerger cost savings would increase profits by US$600 million. ...

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pp. 186-202

The formation of the European single market and monetary union disadvantaged labor in many ways. Most important, the expansion of markets across national boundaries provided capital with increased options to exit the mid-twentieth-century class compromise that shaped labor relations and welfare states across Western Europe. ...


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pp. 203-218


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pp. 219-250


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pp. 251-261

E-ISBN-13: 9780801461576
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801446481

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2008

Edition: 1