ECPR Conference, 2011: A precarious December


In the 2011 general ECPR Conference (Reykjavik, Iceland) I presented a paper on the effects of the December Riots on the Athenian precarious workers’ unions.

Title: A precarious December: Flexible workers’ unions in the aftermath of a youth rebellion

Abstract: In December 2008, the killing of a 15-year-old boy by a police officer sparked a series of violent clashes between police and demonstrators all over Greece. This contentious episode, usually referred to as the ‘December Riots’, was by no means connected to labor claims, nor the demonstrations were supported by the official Greek union structure. Howbeit, in the months that followed, several  grassroots  unions and labor organizations were formed in Greece, in workplaces where flexible labor relations prevail. In a  series  of interviews conducted during that period, the new unions’ founding members pointed out that the ‘December Riots’ were an important turning point towards their union formation. The events served both as a meeting point for young, non-unionized workers and as a node, where incentives and resources for further mobilization could be produced and circulated. Moreover, activists belonging to pre-existing precarious workers’ unions acknowledged that the contentious episode exercized a significant influence on their unions’ strategies, movement repertoires and networking activities.
In this paper, based on empirical data gathered from various sources, I argue that flexible workers’ unionizing activities are strongly intertwined with the wider social movement environment. The framing of a ‘precarious worker’ collective identity is a prerequisite for undertaking collective action in flexible workplaces. Yet, this framing mechanism is rounded out both inside and outside the workplace. During ‘eventful protests’ -such as the ones that took place throughout the ‘December Riots’, cognitive, relational and emotional processes are set in motion. Thus, major movement episodes may prove to be crucial observation points for researching and understanding flexible labor unionism.

You may download the paper from here.