Author

Jason Foster

Date of Award

9-2003

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Work and Society

Supervisor

Wayne Lewchuk

Language

English

Abstract

This study explores the link between class and political activism by examining the union and political participation of union activists in Alberta. Through a survey and selected in depth interviews, the study finds union activists are more politically active than average Canadians. It arrives at three core conclusions. First, union activists who possess a relational sense of class consciousness are more likely to engage in political activity. This class consciousness is formed and articulated out of lived experience, rather than intellectual understanding, and can be seen as an expression of a "culture of solidarity". Second, union activists experience a perceptible class divide separating them from middle class institutions of the political system. This divide can inhibit political participation. Union activists who cross the divide into middle class politics can be seen as "bridge builders", linking working class activists with middle class political culture. Third, unions can play an important role in fostering political activism among their members. Unions can influence the decision to act politically through concrete local action and framing the nature of union work in a class relational fashion. Recommendations for union strategies are offered, as well as suggestions for revitalizing progressive political organizations.

McMaster University Library

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