[Contracting Masculinity: Gender, Class & Race in a White-Collar Union, 1944-1994]

Article excerpt

This is an interesting book filled with insights going beyond the case study aspects of the Office and Professional Employees' Union of British Columbia Hydro. There is one somewhat heavy and more classic labour history chapter, as the author herself indicates, though Gillian Creese extends her analysis to more recent developments, with frequent links to broader issues (for example, gender streaming in education), with interesting summaries of the significance of union actions (the "appearance" of wage discrimination) and with appropriate integration of classic concepts. She contends correctly that "(e)xploring how the operation of the office union was inscribed through racialized and gendered assumptions helps us understand how workers both challenge and reproduce inequality in the office, sometimes in spite of their best intentions, as part of the collective bargaining process with their employer" (p. 33). She connects this analysis to constructions of masculinity, femininity, technical skill, and equity and solidarity.

Interesting historical issues take us from why the local chose to affiliate with a less radical movement, to the last gains of the early 1980 negotiations (paralleled in many other unions), to the impact of restructuring and neo-liberalism in our own time. The description and analysis of the issue of separate organization and targeted issues of the women's caucus is at the same time comfortingly familiar and deeply disquieting.

Creese's lessons for the future borrow from several sources in an interesting synthesis of changing union culture, social unionism, revising seniority, and wage solidarity. …