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Disintegrating Democracy at WorkLabor Unions and the Future of Good Jobs in the Service Economy$
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Virginia Doellgast

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801450471

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801450471.001.0001

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Using Power in the Workplace

Using Power in the Workplace

(p.54) 3 Using Power in the Workplace
Disintegrating Democracy at Work

Virginia Doellgast

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines the strategies employed by U.S. and German telecommunications firms and their subcontractors to reorganize call center jobs in hope of improving the productivity and quality of customer service and sales. Matched case studies in these two industries show that despite similar strategies and objectives, managers in each country established very different employment systems. Labor unions in the United States were unable to prevent managers from intensifying monitoring and discipline to increase productivity. In contrast, unions and works councils in Germany used their strong codetermination rights to promote a more professional, or high-involvement, model of work design that safeguarded employee autonomy and discretion. This chapter highlights the importance of strong institutional supports for workplace democracy in encouraging management to adopt high-road approaches to reorganizing jobs and motivating workers.

Keywords:   telecommunications firms, call center jobs, employment, labor unions, United States, Germany, works councils, codetermination, workplace democracy

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