Are labor union representatives agents or stewards? : An exploratory study regarding the governance of labor unions

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Abstract: Abstract Background & Problem: During recent years there have been disclosed instances of labor union representatives wrongfully using the members’ funds. Considering the nature of the labor unions this kind of behavior is surprising, and therefore there is an interest in what motivates these representatives in their actions. Agency theory and Stewardship theory suggests two opposing views of corporate governance and motivation. The authors of this study attempt to contribute to this discussion by exploring the environment within labor unions.  Purpose: The purpose of this study is to explore whether the management representatives within labor unions are acting as agents or stewards as well as whether they are perceived as such in the eyes of the members. Method: This study is based on a deductive research approach using a qualitative research strategy. The primary data was collected through semi-structured interviews from representatives of the unions as well as members of the unions. This was complemented with information from the websites and documents from the labor unions. A thematic analysis approach was used to analyze the findings. Conclusion: This study concluded that the representatives of the different labor unions are leaning more towards acting as stewards rather than agents and that they are perceived as such by the members.  The authors found that there was a lot of focus on member recruitment and the importance of recognizing what type of relationship that exists.

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