“Are You a Union Member?”. Determinants and Trends of Subjective Union Membership in Italian Society (1972 - 2013)

Thursday, 2 July 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
TW1.3.04 (Tower One)
Lorenzo Frangi, UQAM, Montral, QC, Canada
Mauro Barisione, University of Milan, Milan, Italy
This article aims to explain under what conditions individuals (i.e. employees and non-employees) decide to join a union – or to remain members – in a country, such as Italy, where membership is open to all citizens and based on an individual’s voluntary decision. Unlike trends drawn from administrative data, we focus on the idea of “subjective membership”. Hence, we take into account individuals’ awareness of being affiliated to a union, their sense of belonging, and the social desirability of stating their membership status. Instrumental and ideational rationales, together with the specific features of Italian unionism, drive our cross-sectional and longitudinal hypotheses. Using an ITANES pooled dataset based on 11.000 observations over 40 years (1972-2013), we find that subjective membership has sharply decreased over time not only among employees, but also – in clear contrast with administrative data – among non-employees. As a result of the peculiar politicization of Italian unionism, we also find that only a minority of politically engaged left-wing individuals has maintained the same probabilities of being union members since the early 1970s. These findings show that subjective measures are particularly useful in understanding individuals’ decision to join a union.