Trade Union Revitalization in Kenya: Acquisition and Utilization of Power Resources

Authors

  • Jacob Omolo

Abstract

A consensus has emerged in trade union research that trade unions are not solely at the mercy of major societal trends, but always have the option of making strategic choice(s) to revitalize and ensure improvement in the socio-economic welfare of their members. The key question is, which power resources and means of exerting such power are available to trade unions in the different context they face to reposition and revitalize themselves?  This paper uses the power resources approach to identify the power resources that were acquired, developed and utilized by the Kenya National Private Security Workers Union to revitalize. The revitalization process, which started in 2011 saw the union transform from an outfit characterized by leadership wrangles, coup d’états, demarcation conflicts and low membership density to one with relatively high membership, stronger cohesion and solidarity, and unity amongst the leadership and the rank and file members. Based on the analysis, the revitalization of the Kenya National Private Security Workers Union reinforced the fact that associational power is best sustained through institutional power. The revitalization process also saw a double framing function by allowing the union to gain more sympathy and relevance from members of the public, while internally presenting it with articulation capabilities to bring together national officials, shop stewards and rank-and-file members. These changes made the union to increase its density by almost tenfold between 2011 and 2017. It also enabled the union to emerge as a strong, cohesive and vibrant union capable of turning challenges into opportunities.

Author Biography

Jacob Omolo

Senior Lecturer, Department of Applied Economics, Kenyatta University (Kenya)

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