Trade Unions Online

July 2017

Trade Unions Online

The advent of the micro-processor and the development of the internet has made it increasingly common to talk of a “digital revolution”. The changes that these technologies have wrought have had profound ramifications for almost every aspect of life in western societies, ranging across the way we communicate with friends and family, how we get our news and information, the types of environments we work in, and how we shop for goods and services. For trade unions, these changes are likely to have major consequences.

This report employs a multi-method research technique to understand how unions are using digital media and, as importantly, how those charged with developing these techniques think about their roles and perceive them fitting into the work of their organisation. In order to do this, the authors employ two methods:

  • In-depth, semi-structured interviews with union officials working on new media and digital strategies.
  • A content analysis of 73 UK trade union websites to understand how and to what extent they are using different types of web communication.

This report concludes by outlining five challenges and areas of tensions for trade unions in the digital environment: the challenge faced by small unions as digital organising becomes increasingly specialised; decisions about resource allocation as new platforms emerge online; institutional decision making versus the online space; how hierarchical organisations operate in the online space; and what audiences are unions trying to reach. 

Client: Unions 21

Authors: Nick Anstead & Jana Warren

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