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Unions' responses to family concerns
Social Problems (2001)
  • Naomi Gerstel, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
  • Dan Clawson, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

This article explores the role of unions in regard to work/family issues, a perspective which challenges traditional work/family issues focused primarily on issues like flextime, childcare and family leave. The authors argue for the inclusion of the class component in work and family research studies and stress the importance of researchers to include the responses of unions to family concerns in their investigations. A study of unions, the authors argue, provides access to the experiences of middle-class and working class, a "diverse population not often captured in studies of work-family issues." The authors support their argument by using an analytic strategy that employs an organizational lens of the union rather than employers. The participants in the study were key figures in most of the larger unions (over 300,000 members) and some of the smaller unions with innovative policies. From interviews with participants, a union perspective emerged that broadened the scope of work/family issues to include vacation, sick leave, and health benefits. This shift in analysis, the authors observe, sheds light "not only of what policies should be included, for whom the policies do and can serve." The authors also caution researchers not to treat unions as a dichotomy but to employ a more nuanced analysis. To establish this point, the authors draw on findings from this study. First, unions vary greatly in their level of concern with and success in obtaining benefits and second, structural issues such as gender of the membership and its leaders or the strength of the union were important factors in achieving work/family benefits. Annotated by Leslie Wilcox.

Publication Date
May, 2001
Publisher Statement
DOI: 10.1525/sp.2001.48.2.277
Citation Information
Naomi Gerstel and Dan Clawson. "Unions' responses to family concerns" Social Problems Vol. 48 Iss. 2 (2001)
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