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Redistributing union power to women : the experiences of two women’s committees

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Title: Redistributing union power to women : the experiences of two women’s committees
Author: Foley, Janice R.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy - PhD
Program Business Administration
Copyright Date: 1995
Subject Keywords Women labor union members -- British Columbia
Abstract: This study examined women’s committees in two public sector unions in British Columbia with predominantly female memberships over a twenty year period. The question addressed was how and under what circumstances the committees could secure gains for women, given a context where women remain at a power disadvantage relative to men. Gains sought were of three types: 1) improvements in contract clauses particularly beneficial to women; 2) increased female participation in union governance; and 3) structural changes conducive to future increases in female participation in union governance. Structures as defmed included both formal structures and other regularized procedures, including processes of communication, decision making and resource distribution. Based on literatures from several disciplines, a power model was developed that guided data collection. Data were collected via archival research and semi-structured interviews, and analyzed qualitatively. The study found that the structures governing how the committees operated were significant factors in committee effectiveness and that the active cooperation of the leadership and/or the membership ensured that structures conducive to committee effectiveness existed. The committees’ major challenge was to align their goals with those of the leadership or the membership in order to generate the level of support that would permit them to achieve their goals. The degree of alignment between committee and membership goals affected to what extent the committee could secure goals not supported by the leadership and was the major variable affecting committee power. However, committee power was not necessarily associated with the level of gains achieved for women because both leadership and membership actions and existing union structures could induce outcomes for women not orchestrated by the committees. As a result of this research, the initial power model was refined and the restrictions on the committees’ and leaderships’ use of power were clarified. The utility of crossing the disciplinary boundaries between organizational theory, industrial relations, and political science to explore how power is exercised in unions was demonstrated. Support for the political model of organizations was generated, suggesting that insights gained from the study of unions might advance organizational theorizing.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/8765
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]

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