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Given their central role in the adoption of public policies that advance economic and social equity in the twentieth century, the continued effectiveness of union political campaigns in the twenty-first century is a pressing issue of general concern.

In the face of declining membership, reduced economic leverage, and stagnant gains in collective bargaining, unions have more fully embraced political strategies to protect their members and achieve policy changes that redistribute wealth and social protections. This project will undertake a systematic mapping and comparison of the strategies, tactics and framings of union campaigns to influence public policy to assess which approaches (or combination of approaches) are most successful.


This project was three major objectives:

1) To document the range of union political strategies used since 2000, examining election campaigns, social movement pressure campaigns, political job action, and legal action.
2) To compare the relative effectiveness of these strategies in meeting their stated goals, and identify the factors that contribute to the (in)effectiveness of union political campaigns.
3) To explore the reasons unions adopt different approaches to exerting political influence, including the role that unions’ internal political cultures, collective identities, and position within the structures of economic and political power play in their strategic choices.

Dr. Stephanie Ross – Union Politics in the 21st Century

Union Politics in the 21st Century is a five-year SSHRC-funded research project that seeks to understand how unions are engaging politically and what political strategies are the most successful in securing worker-friendly policies. The research team is made up of Dr. Stephanie Ross, Dr. Larry Savage (Brock University) and Dr. Wayne Lewchuk, as well as Labour Studies doctoral students Chris Fairweather and Chantal Mancini. This project will create the most comprehensive documentation of union political campaigns in Canada since the year 2000.

Learn more about the Union Politics in the 21st Century Project