ÖZP 2011/4 S.335-356
From Social Partner to Social Movement Unionism? Organizing Strategies of the Austrian Trade Unions
Keywords: trade unions, union strategies, construction sector, social partnership unionism, social movement unionism
Socio-economic change, massive membership losses, and since the BAWAG crisis, financial problems pose specific challenges to Austrian trade unions. Although the institutional anchoring of Austrian unions in the national socio-political system is still largely intact, we argue that they face a twofold membership and financial crisis which in turn affects their organizing strategies. We propose a conceptual model of two dominant union identities, social partnership unionism and social movement unionism, each entailing different power resources and strategic options. We use an empirical study of two unions in the construction sector to test the plausibility of this model and develop it further. The results show that while no comprehensive strategic change has taken place, an opening towards the model of social movement unionism is taking place.