Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Strategies to support equality bargaining inside unions: Representational democracy and representational justice

Document type Article
Author Briskin, Linda
Journal Journal of Industrial Relations
Volume 56
Date 2014-04-01
ISSN 0022-1856, 1472-9296
Pages 208-227


The article examines two internal union strategies for improving equality bargaining. The first, representational democracy (RD), highlights the demographic profile of women’s participation in collective bargaining (CB). The discussion presents the existing, albeit imperfect, data on women’s participation. It supports the continuing importance of the gender profiles of negotiators, but also considers the limits of RD via an exploration of essentialism, critical mass and gender composition. It concludes that RD is a limited proxy for voice, and, given the individualism inherent in its claims, an imperfect vehicle for collective agency. The paper then develops the concept of representational justice (RJ), which speaks to collective mechanisms which ensure that women’s interests are represented; in effect, a move from individual equality champions to vehicles for championing equality. As one means to such an end, the article argues for building formal and constitutionalized links between CB and union equality structures. Highlighting internal union strategies to support equality bargaining complements the widespread focus on the substantive issues on the bargaining agenda and takes the discussion of equality bargaining in new directions. Certainly, this approach underscores the importance of unions linking struggles around diversity, equality and representation inside unions to the CB process and agenda.