Back to grass roots: Peak union councils and community campaigning

Alison Barnes, Nikola Balnave*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Peak union bodies in Australia have a long and influential history, and most recently have developed an approach to union revitalisation based on community-based campaigning strategies. In responding to labour market changes, declining union membership and hostile governments and employers, peak union bodies have developed new ways to strengthen the collective ability of their affiliated unions to successfully represent members at the workplace level. They have embraced local-level strategies that tap into community concerns and are aimed at capacity building across the labour movement. The resulting grass-roots organisations have the potential to shape both the workplace and the public domain. We explore one example of this approach: the establishment of Local Union Community Councils by Unions NSW. We argue that although peak bodies are well placed to spearhead community campaigning, the grass-roots councils being created will need to progress through several stages of development, if they are to become self-sustaining organisations, contributing effectively over the long term to community mobilisation and stronger, more coordinated union campaigns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)577-595
Number of pages19
JournalEconomic and Labour Relations Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015


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