Private Detectives, Blacklists and Company Unions: Anti-Union Employer Strategy & Australian Labour History

By Cooper, Rae; Patmore, Greg | Labour History - A Journal of Labour and Social History, November 2009 | Go to article overview

Private Detectives, Blacklists and Company Unions: Anti-Union Employer Strategy & Australian Labour History


Cooper, Rae, Patmore, Greg, Labour History - A Journal of Labour and Social History


In November 2002 Labour History published a thematic on union organising. (1) It featured contributions on organising in Australia, New Zealand and the United States, and the authors of the diverse group of papers on the process, context and results of union organising, puzzled whether the historical traditions of the labour movement held any promise for sparking a revitalisation of unions in the 2000s. Since that time, the unionisation rate has fallen even further. In August 2007, only 18.9 per cent of Australian workers were unionised, and in the private sector the figure was even lower, at 14 per cent. (2) It was noted in 2002 that the unionisation rate (then 23 per cent) was the lowest experienced by Australian trade unions since the first decade of the twentieth century when the labour movement was recovering from the crushing effects of the 'great strikes' and the depression of the 1890s. (3) The situation looks even bleaker now. On other measures--including the relative circumstances of unions in Australia and abroad--union membership density looks unhealthy. Indeed, it seems that Australia has been a world 'leader' in union density decline over the past 20 years. (4)

Scholars seeking to explain declining union membership and power in Australia during the 1990s and 2000s have identified a number of important influences. (5) A critical issue has been the agency of the neo-liberal state and the intersection of state activity with an increasingly anti-union employer ideology and strategy. Throughout the 1990s in the various state and the federal jurisdictions, legislation and policy have undermined union organising, bargaining and representation rights. Individual contracts undercut collectively bargained standards and have limited union 'reach'. This environment has facilitated the development of militant (anti-union) management in Australia. (6) While the state has taken an active role in (anti-) union affairs, employers across a range of industries and sectors have shown considerable capacity to themselves develop and implement strategies aimed at 'decollectivising' employment relations. Sometimes employers have made use of laws and courts, but we have also witnessed the development of more subtle initiatives, embedded in workplace culture and communication, aiming to exclude 'external' parties and regulation. (7) We would argue, along with other Australian observers of industrial relations and politics, that the twin and complimentary processes of employer anti-unionism and an enabling (anti-collective) legislative and policy agenda are the keys to understanding the scale of union decline in Australia during this time. At various points in our history employers have been vociferous in their opposition to unions, but there rarely has been such a 'perfect storm' of neo-liberal anti-union ideology, keen employer anti-unionism and an anti-collective policy framework. (8)

Researching Capital in Australian Labour History

While the traditional focus of labour history has been the institutions of labour, such as political parties and trade unions, there has been a longstanding recognition of the need to examine the role that capital plays in shaping the development of worker organisation. Writers among the 'Old Left' of Australian labour history, for instance, Bob Gollan in his The Coalminers of New South Wales, went beyond a history of miners' unionism and presented an analysis of class relations in the coal industry. Gollan drew upon records of the Australian Agricultural Company, a leading agricultural and coal mining enterprise, to show how the union promoted employer mobilisation and organisation. (9)

The 'New Left' was also concerned with the neglect of class relations. English historian Edward Thompson, who strongly influenced the New Left in Australia, asserted that the working class only existed if there was a ruling class, and vice versa; and that these groups could only be understood in reference to one another. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Private Detectives, Blacklists and Company Unions: Anti-Union Employer Strategy & Australian Labour History
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.