Unions Against Governments: Explaining General Strikes in Western Europe, 1980-2006

TitleUnions Against Governments: Explaining General Strikes in Western Europe, 1980-2006
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsKelly, J., Hamann, K., and Johnston, A.
JournalComparative Political Studies
Pagination1030 - 1057
Date Published2013///
Keywordsgeneral strikes, policy reforms, social pacts, unions, Western Europe

Across Western Europe, unions have increasingly engaged in staging general strikes against governments since 1980. This increase in general strikes is puzzling as it has occurred at the same time as economic strikes have been on the decline. We posit that theories developed to explain economic strikes hold little explanatory power in accounting for variation in general strikes across countries and over time. Instead, we develop a framework based on political variables; in particular, whether governments have included or excluded unions in framing policy reforms; the party position of the government; and the type of government. Our empirical analysis, based on a conditional fixed-effects logit estimation of 84 general strikes between 1980 and 2006, shows that union exclusion from the process of reforming policies, government strength, and the party position of the government can provide an initial explanation for the occurrence of general strikes.