Becoming a unionist in spite of oneself? The strained activist socialization of mobilized vehicle-for-hire drivers

Dealing with politics. Novices, amateurs, and part-timers in politics
By Sarah Abdelnour, Sophie Bernard

The first protests of French vehicle-for-hire drivers took place in fall 2015. Heading the action were the drivers who would in time become the true leaders of the movement, organizing collective action and becoming representatives in the eyes of public authorities. Based on the observation of the protests and interviews with the leaders of the movement, this article highlights the tensions involved in the activist socialization of the drivers, independent workers who are hostile toward unions, while being representatives and sometimes even unionists themselves. Discussing the literature on spokespeople during protests, this article reveals the preexisting resources and learning processes that transformed independent contractors into collective action leaders and representatives during political negotiations. The article offers an original representation of these unpaid semi-professional activists whose political skills might be the result of previous experiences, transmitted through professional unionists, and acquired on the job. The research also highlights the political skill deployed, which enables the drivers to maintain their legitimacy in various social spheres, remaining “in between,” as both drivers and unionists.

  • trade unionism
  • social conflict
  • freelancers
  • digital platform workers
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