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WILLIAMS, Dana. Anarchists and Labor Unions: Applying New Social Movement Theory to the Characteristics of Contemporary Anarchists. -2- Summary and Hypothesis.
University of Akron
Article published on 18 April 2005
last modification on 27 April 2015

by r-c.
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Introduction & Literature review

SUMMARY AND HYPOTHESES

This work posits anarchism within a new social movement theory framework. It begins to create a rudimentary analysis of the North American anarchists and their various qualities and attitudes, analysis that till present has been severely lacking.
In this research I hypothesize that:

H1: Working class anarchists tend to belong to unions;

H2: Anarchists with an economic ideology tend to belong to unions;

H3: Anti-work beliefs and practices tend to deter membership in unions;

H4: Older age is a strong predictor of union membership, therefore:

H5: Anarchists do not fit neatly within NSM theory, although they share some sympathetic tendencies.

DATA AND METHODS

Sample

For this study, data we extracted from a 2002 user survey of the prominent North American anarchist website www.infoshop.org, the Mid-Atlantic Infoshop (herein called “Infoshop”). Previous mass media research has shown that Infoshop is an online nexus for anarchist information (and “counter-propaganda”) and other anarchist websites (Owens and Palmer 2003). The survey includes 922 responses.

The survey was posted on a single webpage, linked from the site’s homepage. It consisted of nineteen personal and demographic questions, thirteen questions about politics, eight questions about activism, fifteen questions about the Infoshop webpage, and ten other questions about “other stuff”. The questions commonly offered only fixed-response answers, although the survey would sometimes offer the opportunity to specify an “other” response. Anyone – not just anarchists – who visited the webpage could take the survey, there was no time limit, and it was only offered in English.
A “digital divide” bias might be found in internet-based surveys. A National Telecommunications and Information Administration study (2002) shows that Whites and Asian-Americans, the more affluent, and more educated tend to use computers and the internet more than other race/ethnic groups, the less affluent, and less educated. Roughly equal numbers of men and women use the internet. Seventy-five percent of respondents were male and one-third of respondents described their economic background as “working class”. In terms of gender and class, the Infoshop survey is an atypical sample of respondents for internet users.

The respondents form a group that is really part of only one generation (late teens to middle twenties), and that a minority of middle-age and older respondents skew the mean age to appear older than one might expect at first glance. The relative youthfulness of survey respondents should caution the reader. And as evidenced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (2004) study, this age group also tends to have the lowest union membership.

Measures

Dependent variable. The outcome measure for this study is union membership. User responses were dummy-coded to true or false for each possible response; thus if a respondent is in a union, s/he is assigned a 1 value (true), or a 0 value (false) if not a union member. Respondents who answered affirmative to the union question in the Infoshop survey are compared to those who report not belonging to a union.

Explanatory and Control Variables. Also dummy-coded are the following explanatory, independent variables. The variable “economic anarchist” is created from the two responses to political ideology that are both economic and anarchist in focus “anarcho-communist” and “anarcho-syndicalist” (1=yes). These two ideologies emphasize the importance of attention to class and economic issues. All other responses to ideology were dummy-coded as 0=no, including regular anarchists. Those who simply called themselves anarchists might sympathize with the same values as economic anarchists or may also call themselves such, but they are still dummy-coded 0 as economic anarchists in this study.

Working class (responses to economic background, includes “dirt poor” and “working class, blue/pink/white collar”; 1=yes), while 0=no and includes both middle- and upper-class respondents; Those who don’t want work (responses to work, includes “never”, “Crimethinc”, and “government handouts”; 1=yes), while the omitted categories include those who work full- and part-time, are students, or are currently unemployed. Age is a continuous variable measured in years.

I controlled for other standard demographic variables, including: White (response to race; 1=yes), while 0 includes Asian, African-American, Latino, indigenous, and mixed; male (response to gender; 1=yes), while 0 includes female and transgender/other; heterosexual (response to sexual orientation; 1=yes), while 0 includes gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and “gender-queer”; no religion (responses to religion, includes “agnostic”, “atheist”, and “not religious”; 1=yes), while 0 includes both mono- and poly-theistic religions, and other spiritual philosophies (such as Taoism and Church of the SubGenius); North America (responses to country of residence, includes “Canada”, “Mexico”, and “United States”; 1=yes). Dummy-coded as 0 are all others, who are predominantly European. The label “North American” might be slightly misleading, since although Mexicans are counted, they are very few in number. They are included since I assume that the proximity to the US and other possible cultural similarities makes these respondents analogous to other North Americans (O’Connor 2003), despite the language difference (Infoshop is written overwhelmingly in English).

Analytic Strategy The core of my analysis is to see how union members are associated with the working class and economic anarchists, holding constant work and age. The predictive diagram for this research is as follows:

I use logistic regression analysis, since the dependent variable is binary (1 = union membership). The independent variables of the regression model also include basic socio-demographic variables (such as race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religious affiliation, place of origins). I use progressive adjustment models (Stolzenberg 1980) in three steps. First, I regress the dependent variable on the control variables. This step allows analysis of the relationship between union membership and the general demographic traits of survey respondents. Secondly, only the independent variables that measure anarchism are regressed. This step shows the relationship between the variables which should directly predict union membership. Third, I regress the dependent variable on all variables, both the independent and control variables.
This process shows how the independent variables of both Models 1 and 2 affect the dependent variable, and then how each set affects each other when combined together in Model 3. If the variables were never split-up in smaller groups, it would be difficult to know what affect the groups have separately.

RESULTS
Descriptive findings

See the Appendix for the descriptive statistics and correlations for all the variables in this study. Nineteen percent (170 people) of those who answered the question stated they belonged to a union. Although this percentage may seem higher than US figures for union membership, remember that this number is inflated by non-US respondents (only 16 percent of US respondents were in a union). People who specified an economic anarchist ideology (anarcho-communist or anarcho-syndicalist) accounted for 14 percent of responses. There may be far more who would identify or sympathize with these ideologies, yet chose to respond simply with a fundamental answer of “anarchist” (23 percent did). One-third of respondents placed their economic background in the working class, while six percent professed a CrimethInc or other Don’t Want Work attitude.

The average age was 24 years old. Age is a particularly important variable to the study, yet as mentioned earlier the low average age should caution the reader to conclusions drawn by the age variable. The range is from twelve to 65, and more than half the respondents were between the ages of 18 and 25.

Anarchists in the Infoshop survey differ from the general population in a number of other key ways—gender (75 percent male), sexual orientation (only 68 percent heterosexual), and religion (65 percent not religious). Eighty-two percent identified as White and eighty-five percent were from North America.

Union membership is correlated with all four of the predictive independent variables (economic anarchist, working class, Don’t Want Work, and age), as well as the North American control variable. Three of these variables are positively correlated to unions: economic anarchists (r=.191, p<.0001), working class (r=.075, p=.026), age (r=.236, p<.0001). Don’t Want Work (r=-.095, p=.005) and North American (r=.119, p=.000) were both negatively correlated to union membership. Being working class is significantly correlated to economic anarchists (r=.137, p<.0001), Don’t Want Work (r=.102, p=.002), and age (r=.088, p=.010).

There were some significant relationships between the explanatory and control variables. Economic anarchists were positively correlated with White (r=.094, p=.008) and male (r=.113, p=.001). Working class was negatively correlated to White (r=-.140, p<.0001). Age was negatively correlated to no religion (r=-.083, p=.015).
Significant correlations were found among the control variables themselves. Male was positively correlated with heterosexual (r=.343, p<.0001) and negatively correlated with North American (r=-.088, p=.009). No religion (1 = yes) was positivelycorrelated to White (r=.071, p=.047), male (r=.101, p=.003), and heterosexual (r=.092, p=.008), and also negatively correlated to North American (r=-.109, p=.001).

Multivariate findings Table 1 displays findings from the logistic regression analysis. Model 1 shows union membership (1=yes) regressed on the control variables. North Americans (1=yes) are less likely, compared to their counterparts (predominantly European) to be union members. In fact, being North American reduces the probability that the respondent will belong to a union by about 50 percent [(e-.704 – 1) × 100]. None of the other control variables are significant.

Table 1.- Logistic Regression Coefficients of Union Membership (n=922)

In Table 1, Model 2, union membership is regressed on the independent measures for this study. Being an economic anarchist compared all other ideological focuses increases the probability of belonging to a union by more than 210 percent [(e1.136 - 1) × 100]. Those who Don’t Want Work, when compared to all those who do work, are 92 percent less likely to be in unions [(e-2.528 – 1) × 100]. They also have the largest absolute regression coefficient in Model 2. Finally, age increases the likelihood of being in a union by six percent [(e.062 – 1) × 100]. Although expected to predict union membership, having a working class background was not significant in Model 2.

Table 1, Model 3 represents the final model for this study. Union membership is regressed on both the explanatory and control variables. The same variables stay significant as in Models 1 and 2. Being an economic anarchists compared to other ideologies increases the probability of being in a union by nearly 260 percent [(e1.275 – 1) × 100], an increase of 46 percent once the control variables are added into the model. The other variables do not change as greatly. Not wanting work , when compared to others who work, decreases the likelihood of being in a union by 90 percent [(e-2.352 – 1) × 100], a two percent increase once the controls are added. The influence of the variable age on union membership in Model 3 is the same as in Model 2. Age increases the probability of being in a union by six percent [(e.062 – 1) × 100]. North Americans are 47 percent [(e-.761 – 1) × 100] less likely to be in unions, compared to those not from North America, a three percent change compared to Model 1, which included only control variables.

Next:

Discussion and Conclusions. References. Appendix


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