Labor Unions in Comparative Perspective

In any examination of Labor in Comparative Perspective, it is important to recognize that labor unions around the world are not the same and do not engage in the same kinds of activities or strategies.  While this may seem obvious on its face, a key focus of comparative employment relations seeks to explain these differences.   Many different dimensions have been argued to be critical dividing lines between union identities such as ideological orientation, membership demographics, organizing strategies and institutional arrangements in which unions operate (Taylor et al. p. 3).

The question of union identities is also important because unions everywhere are facing challenges based on neoliberal globalization.  Understanding union identity is useful, in part, because it helps to map out the contours of possible strategies to revitalize unions as an effective voice of workers.

A relatively new and interesting argument has been put forth by Taylor, et al. (see below) critiquing the union identity framework developed by Professor Richard Hyman.  The authors explain and critique Hyman’s approach and then propose their own model of union identity.  Their model is based on the tendencies of unions to either “accommodate” or “oppose” neoliberalism on the one hand along with their tendency to organize and mobilize in national or international arenas.

Below is their typology of union identities.  To learn more, please see the open access article from Middlesex University, London.




















Hyman, R. (2001a) Understanding European Trade Unionism London: Sage.

Taylor, G., Mathers, A. & Upchurch, M. (2012) Beyond ‘Political Economism’: new identities for unions in Western Europe? Capital & Class, 36 (1). pp. 17-24. Available at: