Getting out of the factory to better impose yourself?

The resisted affirmation of women union activists’ leadership in an electronics company (1968–2018)
By Pierre Rouxel

This article analyzes the consequences of the diffusion of the cause of women’s representation within trade unions on the gender relations of grassroots activist groups. Based on a study of the recomposition of a CGT union in an electronics company since 1968, it highlights the partial redefinition of the sexual division of labor fostered by the increased participation of women in the activities of the union apparatus. As a vector for stabilizing activist careers, access to organizational responsibilities long reserved for men constitutes for some women the basis for a strengthened capacity to debate the union’s strategies and demands. Part of male trade union leadership until the 2000s, the position of interface between the company and the organization’s networks is nevertheless being disputed in a context of weakening and institutionalization of trade unionism. This study of trade union feminization “from below” thus highlights the variability of legitimate activist resources which ensures the reproduction over time of a male monopoly on access to leading positions.

  • trade unions
  • gender
  • activism
  • gender relations
  • industrial restructuring
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