Structure and Competing Logics: The Art of Shaping Interests within German Employers' Associations
However, analytical accounts differ about the means by which this is to be done: some authors argue that a first logic is subordinated to a second, others see logic emphasized or de-emphasized within a bargaining cycle, or still others argue that competing logics are attached to certain tasks to be pursued by an association. At the end of the day, as most of these authors argue, employers’ associations need the support of actors outside their own organization to be able to reconcile those competing logics, be it the unions or the state.
The paper proposed for presentation will add to this perspective and suggests a more nuanced view on employers’ associations. I will argue that a major tension within any employers’ association emerges out of the fact that by their very nature, employers’ associations are non-profit organizations of for profit members who all too often are competitors within product and labor markets. Beyond the notion of a single dimension of “membership logic” the paper emphasizes the associations’ role of seeking to reconcile conflicting interests within this dimension. Based on the analysis of the bylaws of 358 German employers’ associations, and drawing on numerous unpublished documents and interviews with employer representatives from a variety of different associations, the paper will introduce five different dimensions, through which employers, as a formal organization, do channel and shape the interests of members. Thus, employers define separate rules for the admission of members into the association, to insulate certain aspects of members’ interests from representation but also to selectively emphasize or de-emphasize certain classes of members.
Admission rules define representational domains but so do provisions for voting procedures used for admitting new entries into the associations. The insulation of certain interests constitutes a second set of rules which requires members as well as the association’s staff and leadership to keep information on members’ business affairs confidential. By assigning voting rights to members, and allowing them to vest other members with voting rights, a third set of rules contributes to shaping the division of power within employers’ associations. While some scholars have argued that through securing themselves additional voting rights large companies seek to gain privileged power over associations, the analysis will reveal that the most common rule in voting rights is the ‘one-member-one-vote’ provision. In addition, the analysis will also follow up on other sets of rules used to selectively activate members and to solve conflict among them or between members and the association. As will be shown, several associations maintain their own internal tribunals and other procedures for dispute resolution as a means to solving conflict among members but also between members and the association’s leadership. Finally, bylaws for the selective activation of members provide for special committees that involve members more deeply in the affairs of the association.
The analysis will establish that German employers’ associations vary a great deal when it comes to creating and applying certain patterns of rules to channel the interests of members. In contrast to perspectives which see employers’ association as rigid, formal and powerful interest representation bodies, the analysis that is to be presented will ague that such associations are rather vulnerable and do provide their members with multiple veto opportunities to control the associations’ leadership. In contrast to many – but not all – of the “competing logics”-accounts, the analysis finds that employers’ associations use internal rules in general - and provisions for providing members with veto rights in particular - to establish and maintain their capacity to represent the interests of business.
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