In the context of national trade union decline, this paper explores the geography of trade union organization through case study research at the Shredded Wheat Factory in Welwyn Garden City (Herfordshire, UK). This example highlights the geographical constitution of trade union traditions, focusing upon the ways in which collective practices and ideas are forged in particular places but also how trade union traditions can be translated across space, from one place to another. This translation is argued to take place in three ways: (i) through the direct migration of workers, (ii) through the “demonstration effects” of strikes, trade union defeats and the ensuing media and trade union coverage of these events, and (iii) through solidarity initiatives taken by workers themselves. Rather than understanding workers' traditions as being historical products in place, I argue they are simultaneously geographical in their constitution. Trade unionism is shown to be processual, constantly evolving in and across time and space. Through such insights the research enhances existing geographical work in the field, advocating an approach which focuses upon the agency involved in trade union organization, the processual nature of trade union organization and the importance of the spatial translation of trade union traditions.
Antipode – Wiley
Published: Oct 1, 1996
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