Between bureaucracy and social movements : careers in the justice for janitors
Author(s)Yu, Kyoung-Hee, Ph. D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Between bureaucratic organization and social movements : careers in the justice for janitors campaign
Sloan School of Management.
Michael J. Piore.
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Industrial relations scholars and organizational sociologists have long argued that American trade unions adopted bureaucratic structures and practices in order to survive in the economic and political environment of the United States. Scholars drew a sharp dichotomy between bureaucratic unionism, which they viewed as the dominant institutional form of American unions, and social movement unionism. But more recently, scholars have argued that the environment has shifted, leading American unions to move away from traditional policies and practices toward social movement unionism. This research examines the organizational change process and current practices of the largest and most successful of such unions, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The dissertation starts with a puzzle: while the union is ideologically progressive and strategically innovative, it is also extremely centralized and bureaucratic; furthermore, bureaucratization and centralization have both increased during the period in which the union adopted social movement elements in its practice. Earlier theories on institutional change in the labor movement have not adequately captured the dynamic coexistence of opposing elements. This study develops a theory of institutional change based on the political process. The thesis introduces the concept of movement careers and identifies these careers as a mechanism that mitigates the tension between bureaucracy and idealism in the union. Part I of the thesis examines historical change in the union during the period 1950s - mid-1990s. It shows that the adoption of social movement elements by the union was the product of a contentious political process. Political battles and the urgency of reform felt by ideologically progressive staff further centralized control in the national union.(cont.) These findings contrast with previous research that has depicted institutional change in the labor movement as rational organizational responses to environmental change. Part II introduces and develops the concept of movement careers. It defines these careers as careers motivated by ongoing personal transformations triggered by an initial politicizing experience. It identifies the structural and ideological features that set movement careers apart from conventional organizational careers. Movement career builders think of their work in the union primarily in terms of changing the existing social order. Thus, they choose not to ascend the hierarchy of the organization. Part III uses observational data from four local sites of the union and shows that sustaining idealism in a bureaucratic structure has posed a dilemma in three out of the four sites. This part of the thesis develops a theory of the organizational and environmental contexts that can foster movement careers in formal organizations.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management, 2008.Includes bibliographical references (p. 182-189).
DepartmentSloan School of Management.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sloan School of Management.