This research project consists in analysing the under-researched but strategic role of trade unions in the getting and enforcement of statutory rights in relation to sex, race and other forms of discrimination. By reflecting on the conditions under which trade unions are likely to mobilize legally on behalf of their members and act as “bridging institutions” between the legal system and the organizational field, this project addresses issues key to contemporary policy and academic debates exploring the effectiveness of different mechanisms of rights enforcement and the potential of reflexive regulation, but also some of its limitations. Drawing on a multidisciplinary approach that bridges legal mobilization literature, industrial relations and feminist studies, this project will contribute to the academic debate on the role of “legal intermediaries” in the promotion of rights, emphasizing the under-researched role of trade unions, the variety of their legal mobilization strategies across countries and over time, but also the “contested” nature of their legal engagement with anti-discrimination law. More specifically, this research project will consider how “gender neutral” norms and practices impact upon men and women differentially, while emphasizing the usefulness of legal mobilization to bringing about transformative social and political change. This cross-fertilization between feminist perspectives and mainstream disciplines is certainly one of the main originality of this project. It also innovates by undertaking a cross-national and cross-organizational comparative work on the uses of legal mobilization looking into unions’ legal strategies in France and in the UK, in a historical perspective (1970-2015). The combination of various qualitative methodological approaches will contribute to the strengthening of the “discursive” study of legal mobilizations and bring new insights on the conditions under which legal rights are interpreted, contested and mobilized.
Fields of science
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