Talking Union, Learning Union- A case study of woman only trade union education
Situated within the context of overall union decline and efforts by unions to utilise various levers to reverse this situation, this paper argues that women-only trade union activist education can act as a vehicle for increasing the participation of women and for improving womens experiences of unions. The findings of a qualitative research study of women-only schools in two large male dominated British trade unions indicate that the union orientation of two categories of union women — apprentice and mature activists — is strengthened and reinforced through the social processes of shared learning within the women-only environment. Importantly, the paper makes a case for broadening conceptions of trade union activism and participation to include activities beyond the formal role of the workplace representative. In this way womens participation is rendered more visible and the likelihood of their involvement and contributions being valued by the union is enhanced.