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From 'playstations' to 'workstations': youth preferences for unionisation in Canada

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Differences in preferences for unions between youths and adults in Canada are analysed based on a survey of approximately 1500 persons. The results indicate that the preferences of youth for unionisation are strongly influenced by social factors such as familial union status and the attitudes of close peers. Preferences for unionisation are also shaped by the perceived costs and benefits of unionisation to deal with a wide range of workplace issues such as merit pay, voice, fair treatment, opportunities for advancement, layoffs, seniority, and a lack of progressive HRM and legislative protection at the workplace. The different preferences of youths and adults are generally consistent with the divergent effects that unions would have on youths and adults with respect to these issues. Youths have a stronger preference than do adults for unions in general. Most of that stronger preference reflects the stronger desire of youths to have unions deal with workplace issues, than it reflects the exposure of youths to these issues. The fact that preferences of youths for unionisation are strongly shaped by social capital factors such as union membership in the family and the attitudes of family and friends towards unions, highlights the cumulative and inter-generational effects that are involved in the unionisation process. Possible substitutes for unionisation such as progressive HRM practices and legislative protection exert a powerful negative effect on preferences for unionisation, especially for youths. The implications of these and other findings for the future of unionisation are also discussed.

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