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The Revitalization of the CWA: Integrating Collective Bargaining, Political Action, and Organizing

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Abstract

This case study of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) demonstrates the value of resource dependence and contingency organizational theories— two branches of organization theory, which has most commonly been used to interpret firm behavior—for analyzing union revitalization. Consistent with predictions of those theories, the CWA responded to a changed environment by abandoning strategies that no longer achieved organizational objectives, but retaining and bolstering strategies that continued to be effective. Furthermore, like the organizations analyzed in Jeffrey Pfeffer and Gerald Salancik’s classic exposition of resource dependency theory, in the face of heightened environmental complexity and uncertainty the CWA used political action, growth strategies, and inter-organizational linkages to gain advantage. The CWA conformed to another prediction of contingency theory by using an integration strategy—specifically, by making simultaneous and interactive use of activities in collective bargaining, politics, and organizing—to spur innovation and respond to environmental complexity and uncertainty.

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2003-07-01

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