Motivation and emotion/Book/2019/Union membership motivation

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Union membership motivation:
Why do people join and why do people not join or leave workers' unions?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Union membership during the 21st century has decreased in Australia (see table 1), and this trend is mirrored around the world,[grammar?] this change effects workplaces, politics, workplaces and law (Burges, Connell and Winterton, 2013). Why this is happening is a complex interaction Involving politics, economics and the psychology of employees and while the political and economic factors are important, we leave them for other authors in other books. In this chapter we delve into the psychology of what motivates people to join, stay in, and leave unions.

Union Protest for better conditions.
Case study
Jenny* had worked as a cook at a Canberra hospital, when she started working there she was asked by somebody if she wanted to join the trade union. The cost was $35 dollars a month, for that she was told the union would negotiate for higher rates of pay, better working conditions and help her communicate with management. All was well until after 4 years in her job Jenny was told that the hospital was restructuring the kitchen services and as a result her hours would be changing and/or reduced. Jenny went to the union who tried to secure her employment as it had been,[grammar?] unfortunately her union was unable to keep her hours as they had been and so Jenny resigned from her job and left the union. After starting a new job as an office admin she was approached and asked if she would be interested in joining the union, her new job was paid a similar amount to her old job and the cost of union membership was also similar, however in this instance Jenny chose not to join the union.

Jenny was motivated to do all three actions over her career; join a union, leave a union, and not join a union, in this chapter we will examine what those motivations were and why they influenced her choices.

Definitions[edit | edit source]

Motivation[edit | edit source]

Figure 2. Maslow's hierarchy, made up of 5 levels.

Motivation is the general term for all processes involved in Starting, directing and maintaining physical and psychological activities (Gerrig, Zimbardo, Campbell, Cumming, Wilkes, 2008 ), this broad definition has in its essence the more graspable question of; why do we do what we do? Maslow (1943) proposed that our motivations are drives to fill 5 hierarchical need Shown in figure 2, from this perspective union membership can be seen as both the third tear: attachment- due to the social involvements belonging to a workplace organisation- and second tear: Safety and security – due to the conditions that unions strive to achieve (safety in the workplace, fair pay rates, good working conditions, etc).[grammar?]

Unions[edit | edit source]

The Australian Bureau of statistics defines Trade unions as "An organisation consisting predominantly of employees, the principal activities of which include the negotiation of rates of pay and conditions of employment for its members."[1]. They typically operate in levels with members, who pay a fee in exchange for help from the union, delegates who directly assist members and recruit new members, organisers who have particular training on how to help members and are employed by the union, and union management (such as secretaries and directors) at the who direct the operations and campaigns. In order to achieve litigious goals unions lobby governments and politicians, in Australia and the UK unions are aligned with the Labor party, in the US they are aligned with the Democratic party[2]. They have been activists for change in workplaces for over a century, however much of what they have achieved has been by activity which was illegal in its time or disruptive, such as protests and stop work meetings.

Discussion[edit | edit source]

Focus Questions
    Why do people Join Unions?
    Why do people Not join unions?
    Why do people stay in and leave unions?
    Where does union membership sit within Maslow's hierarchy?
    What other motivational theories do we consider regarding union membership?

Motivation to join Unions[edit | edit source]

What was it that made Jenny join the union when she worked at the hospital? When employees are invited to join unions they are sold a concept, unions advocate for their members[3]. This concept tells Jenny some thing; that there is an organisation who will try to help keep her job, and in turn her income, secure. Maslow's hierarchy explains that we have an inbuilt need for security which we seek to obtain before we are able to try to obtain love/belonging[4]. Essentially it is this motivation for security that leads members to join unions. Income security is the first link in a chain, it is vital in our communities for the provision of shelter, food, transport, etc. in this way what is being the motivator is not just the security but the physiological needs. While Maslow proposed that a higher level could only be obtained once lower levels were fully met, many now look at the pyramid as a more fluid and dynamic design. Can we reasonable think that people who are unemployed don't have love in there lives? Alderfer (1969) contests that there are three levels which constantly interact with one another depending on our current situation one need may me more prominent but other need don't disappear completely. His ERG Model separates need in to; Existence - closely related to physiological and safety needs, Relatedness- associated with love and esteem, and Growth- involving esteem but also the strive for self actualisation. Using this model to explain why Jenny joined the union we see that while her main motivator was probably existence (regular and secure money to live on) the benefits would expand to relatedness (Money to spend on social occasions) and Growth (Secure time off for personal development), while one need is more significant they all interact, and each contributed to jennies drive to action.[grammar?]Template:Rewrte

Motivations not to Join.[edit | edit source]

Social stereotypes associated with group membership have a role to play in joining & not joining unions (Ryan C.S. 1995, Jussim, crawford & Rubinstein, 2015).  As a group is seen to be popular, and proper, more people seek involvement in that group, think about recent You tube trends like the ice bucket challenge, as more people were seen to be doing it, more people wanted do it. Inversely when something is seen to be unpopular or deviant from the norm people tend to not want to associate with it. Perceptions of the unions have been effected by the media through history, when the unions have done unethical and interrupting things like storm parliament, rightly or wrongly it has presented the unions as vandals, a group that people don’t want to be associated with. Another group which people may not want to be involved with, depending on political belief, is the Australian Labor party (ALP), due to the close relationships between the two many see membership in the unions as membership in the ALP.  These are examples of Affirmation Motivation, which we talked about earlier in this book , you may remember  Mcleands[grammar?] three needs theory,[grammar?](Koestner & McClelland, 1992,[grammar?])[grammar?]  Based in the idea that we seek achievement, power and affirmation. For many people there is little or no affirmation gained by joining the unions, or more poignantly, joining the unions may create cognitive dissonance with the ideal self they imagine (Festinger 1957; Greenwald & Ronis, 1978). A person in this case will make justification for not joining the unions rather than join.

In Jennies[grammar?] case she had previously had bad experience with the unions so her motivation not to do something is well explained by cognitive-emotional/Cognitive-mediational theory (Lazarus, 1991). The theory stated that before emotion occurs we have unconscious cognitive evaluations, about what the outcomes will be, and what that will mean for us. To put it another way before we make a decision, we quickly and often subconsciously do a cost to benefit analysis, the outcome of which determines if we do, or do not, do something. For Jenny the evaluation incorporated the past experience and so she chose not to join the union.

Motivations to leave or stay.[edit | edit source]

While we can see that union membership is declining, the decline is gradual, this indicates a salient point, people in the union tend to stay in the union. It could easily be put down to habit, and this surely plays a role, however in a psychological context what is going on is more akin to the Meaning Maintenance Model (MMM) (Hein, Proulx, & Vohs 2006). Once a person has joined a group, club, team, religion, Union or other grouping noun, we make evaluations as to what it means personally to be part of that group, and, since we have already joined we tend to focus on the positives so that in turn we feel good being in the group. Once this is done we seek to maintain this feedback loop until there is an interruption which breaks the loop, for example resignation from job or raising membership fees. Try to think of it this way, are you loyal to a football team, when they win you feel good and when they lose you feel negative so why don’t you change football teams and just follow the teams who win the most? The answer is you have invested emotional energy into this team so while they may be the bottom of the ladder, they are your team changing teams will require cognitive energy.

With that in mind we need to look at the other side of the coin; Why do people leave the union, or to stretch an analogy what would it take for you to change football clubs. Union’s, and other clubs, have people leave for a number of reasons, cost, relocation, time commitments, lifestyle changes, these are common events in life and lead to the removal of the raison d’etre for the membership in many cases. Why support Brisbane when you have moved to Melbourne: Why be in a union when you are retired?

But there is one exception that we have identified which needs further discussion that is the loss of belief (faith) in what the union do. Hersberg Motivation-Hygiene theory ( Ewen, Smith, Hulin & Locke, 1966; Herzberg, Mausner & Snyderman 1959; Grigaliunas & Herzberg, 1971) explains this mindset,{gr}} simplified it suggests that the opposite of satisfaction (resulting from motivation) is not dissatisfaction (motivated to not do) but rather no satisfaction (No motivation in either direction) known as a hygienic state. Unions, Like other organisations, are meant to provide some benefit for the members- advocating for better work conditions- this is the primary motivation for membership, when members don’t get better conditions, better pay, or better representation but are still part of the union , as explained by the MMM they will tend to remain in the group, however they are now in a hygienic state meaning that when things do change, change of hours change of role, change of relationship with the employer, they are likely to not have confidence in the union and this leads to people leaving.

Changing nature of work[edit | edit source]

Much of the reason for decline in the number of people now joining unions in accessibility (Herry, 2004) {gr}} many people are not aware of unions. Historically unions were poised to deal with workers taking on full time or part time work for an employer with hundreds if not thousands of employees in clearly defined roles. However today's liberalization of Businesses has lead to subcontracting of jobs, gig economy and casualisation[5]. Subcontracting leads to there often not being a delegate to communicate the beneficial purpose of unions, gig economy is putting pressure on individuals to take full responsibility for a job, not being part of a work force thus having no union to ascribe to. And casualisation has lead to a people who take jobs with the expectation that they won’t be with the same employer for long enough to need the union.

Tables[edit | edit source]

Trade Union Numbers
1970 1980 1990 200
N 2512.7 2567.6 2659.6 1901.8
Population Density 50.2 49.5 40.5 24.7

Number of members and percent of population who are members. Extracted from Visser, 2006


choose the most correct answer and click "Submit":

Since the 70s union membeship[spelling?] has...?

Increased Quickly
Increased Slowly
Decreased Slowly
Decreased rapidly
fluctuated wildly
stayed about the same

People with particular political beliefs may not join unions because of...

the high cost.
The time commitment.
Maslow's hierarchy.
the Meaning Maintenance Model (MMM).
Cognitive dissonance.

Discussion[edit | edit source]

Unfortunately, while there are volumes of work on motivation, and volumes of work union membership, the two fields have little published overlap with much of the psychological data being related to workplace relation and behaviour, and almost all of the data about unions being politically and economically based. As a result we are limited as to how much insight we have about what motivates with regard to union membership, we also recognise that there is a myriad potential motivators which we can only be speculated on. Social motivations for example have been seen anecdotal with people joining the unions only because close friends and family did likewise, people have been seen to join unions when they have, or when they are about to, have problems in the workplace.

We infer from the data we have found that the primary motivator for joining a union is the security that they provide, and to that end we have favoured, Maslow's hierarchy and Alderfers[grammar?] ERG model.

See also[edit | edit source]

Maslow's hirarchy


Meaning Maintenance Mode (MMM)

Mcleands three needs theory;

References[edit | edit source]

Alderfer C., (1969). An empirical Test of a New Theory of Human Needs. Organizational Behavior and human Performance, 4(2), 142-175.

Bodman M (1998) Trade Union Amalgamations, Openness and the Decline in Australian Trade Union Membership. Australian Bullentin Of Labour, 24, 18-45.

Bóckerman P., and Uusitalo R. (2006) Erosion of the Ghent System and Union Membership Decline:Lessons from Finland. British Journal of industrial Relations, 44(2) 283-303.

Burgess J., Connell J., & Winterton J. (2013). Vulnerable workers, precarious Work and the Role of Trade Unions and HRM, The International journal of Human Resource

Management, 24(22), 4083-4093. doi 10.1080/09585192.2013.845420

Ewen  B., Smith P., Hulin C., and Locke (1966) An Emperical Test of the Herzberg Two-Factor Theory. Journal Of Applied Psychology, 50(6) 544-550

Gerrig R., Zimbardo P., Campbell A., Cumming S., and Wilkes F (2008) Psychology and Life. French Forest, NSW, 369-398. ISBN 9781442500891

Greenwald A. and Ronis D. (1978) Twenty Years of Cognitive Dissonance; Case Study of the Evolution of the Theory. Psychological Review, 85(1), 53-57

Maslow H. (1943) A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review, 50 370-396.

Grigaliunas B. and Herzberg F. (1971) Relevancy in the Test of Motivator-Hygiene Theory. Journal Of applied Psychology, 55(1) 73-79.

Hein S., Proulx T., & Vohs K. (2006) The Meaning Maintenance Model: On the Coherence of Social Motivations. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10(2) 88-110.

Koestner R.,  and McClelland (2009) The Affiliation Motive, Motivation and Personality Handbook of Thematic Content Analysis, 13, 205-210.                                                              

Lee Jussim, Jarret T. Crawford, Rachel S. Rubinstein. 2015 Stereotype (In)Accuracy in Perceptions of Groups and Individuals

Macenzie R. (2010). Why do Contingent Workers Join a Trade union? Evidence From the Irish Telecommunications Sector. European journal of Industrial Relations, 16(2)


Ryan, C. S. (1995). Motivations and the perceiver's group membership: Consequences for    stereotype accuracy. In Y.-T. Lee, L. J. Jussim, & C. R. McCauley (Eds.), Stereotype          accuracy: Toward appreciating group differences (pp. 189-214). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.

Visser J. (2006). Union Membership Statistics in 24 Countries. Monthly labor Review, 129(1) 38-49.

External links[edit | edit source]

  1. Statistics, c=AU; o=Commonwealth of Australia; ou=Australian Bureau of (2018-11-29). "Glossary - Glossary". Retrieved 2019-08-31.
  2. "Democratic Party (United States)". Wikipedia. 2019-08-30. 
  3. "What is a union? | The Australian Workers' Union - National". Retrieved 2019-10-20.
  4. "Classics in the History of Psychology -- A. H. Maslow (1943) A Theory of Human Motivation". Retrieved 2019-10-20.
  5. "Workforce casualisation: the discussion we have been avoiding". Per Capita. Retrieved 2019-10-20.