Union Participation Through a Generational Cohort Lens: Improving Participation Across Cohorts

It appears your Web browser is not configured to display PDF files. Download adobe Acrobat or click here to download the PDF file.

Click here to download the PDF file.

Supplemental Files: 


Smith, Christopher




This thesis consists of three mixed-method (interview, survey) research papers that share a common goal - to increase our understanding of the extent to which generational cohort impacts union participation and more broadly, renewal. Paper one sets the context for the thesis, exploring differences in attitudes towards and perceptions of unions between Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1979), and Millennials (1980-2000). Overall, we found that Boomers differ significantly from Gen Xers and Millennials, while the latter two groups were more alike than different. Specifically, Boomers' attitudes and perceptions towards/of unions were typically more positive than those of Gen Xers and Millennials. Further, Boomers appeared to connect to unions on both ideological and instrumental levels, while Gen Xers and Millennials appeared to connect mostly based on the instrumental gain unions can provide their members. Paper two seeks to learn more about how union members of different cohorts conceptualize different levels of participation activity (ie: Active, Passive, Inactive), comparing these emic conceptualizations to the etic understanding of active and passive participation found in the union literature. While we found a need for more nuance in the area, we generally found that union members' etic conceptualization of active and passive participation overlap with the etic descriptions of these concepts held by researchers within the union literature - those who the literature would say participate more actively described their own participation as active, while those who participate more passively tended to describe their activity as such. Paper three compares the state of current union communication practices with our participants' preferences, identifying any gaps, while also exploring what each cohort believes the union is doing well and where it needs to improve with respect to informing members about participation opportunities. We found that generally, union members would like to see the union employ more communication technology such as texts and emails in their communication with members, and more outreach in the form of face-to-face communication. Younger members (Gen X, Millennials) were more likely to want better use of communication technology than were Boomers, while Boomers were more likely to want more face-to-face communication.


Industrial and Labor Relations
Business Administration - Management




Carleton University


Linda Duxbury

Thesis Degree Name: 

Doctor of Philosophy: 

Thesis Degree Level: 


Thesis Degree Discipline: 


Parent Collection: 

Theses and Dissertations

Items in CURVE are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated. They are made available with permission from the author(s).