Digital Democracy and Trade Unionism: The Case of Precariously Employed Workers in Greece

Digital Democracy and Trade Unionism: The Case of Precariously Employed Workers in Greece

Athanasios Tsakiris (University of Athens, Greece) and Costas Eleftheriou (University of Athens, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6248-3.ch004
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Abstract

The chapter addresses the issue of digital democracy and trade unionism, particularly unions in the field of “precarious employment” mainly in the (to a great extent) globalized tertiary sector of the economy. These unions are considered “new” due to their network modes of horizontal organizing and their use of civil disobedience mobilizing compared to those of “older” and “traditional” unions that were characterized by bureaucratic structures and conventional repertoires of action (collective bargaining and strikes). In this chapter, the authors present the cases of four such unions from the banking and telecommunications sector and from the wide fields of publishing and translating. In order to evaluate the factors that determine their uses of the Internet and the social media, the authors analyze the unions' digital strategies through a) static or dynamic and interactive usage of digital media and b) technocratic or agitating rhetoric of uploaded texts and informative material.
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Introduction

The chapter will address the issue of digital democracy and trade unionism, particularly unions in the field of “precarious employment” mainly in the (to a great extent) globalized tertiary sector of the economy. These unions are considered “new” due to their network modes of horizontal organizing and their use of civil disobedience mobilizing compared to those of “older” and “traditional” unions that were characterized by bureaucratic structures and conventional repertoires of action (collective bargaining and strikes). Moreover, these “new” unions use the internet and the Web 2.0 social media in order to communicate with their members, potential friends and bystanders as well as to receive feedback for their strategic and tactical goals or even to organize their general meetings and assemblies. The issue will be addressed by considering case studies of a number of unions in the financial, telecommunications, education and publishing sectors, as well as courier and catering delivery services. In this chapter we present the cases of four such unions from the banking and telecommunications sector and from the wide fields of publishing and translating. In order to evaluate the factors which determine their uses of the internet and the social media, we have analyzed their digital strategies through the following axes: a) static or dynamic and interactive usage of digital media; b) technocratic or agitating rhetoric of uploaded texts and informative material. Our objective was to examine the unions’ goals and organization in connection with their usage of internet. We will argue that unions with a wider spatial orientation, a more fluid internal organization and less recognizable status employ more interactive digital strategies and use internet as a very basic tool of their political functioning. On the other hand unions with a more limited spatial orientation, a strict internal organization and a more recognizable political status prefer more static digital strategies. In both cases the medium facilitates the development of a militant discourse, although in many cases certain technocratic elements seem to appear. The research for this chapter was conducted using semi-structured and in-depth interviews with leading unionists of these organizations as well with the unions’ web administrators and by analyzing their respective websites.

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