CfP: The European Integration of Trade Unions: 70 years of Trade-Unionism and the legal dimensions of Social Europe (1951-2021) at the ELHN-WORCK Conference 2021

Call for papers, deadline 1 October 2020

Fourth European Labour History Network (ELHN) meeting 30 August-03 September 2021

Working Group: The European integration of Trade Unions.

Call for Papers: The European Integration of Trade Unions: 70 years of Trade-Unionism and the legal dimensions of Social Europe (1951-2021)

The creation of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) in 1973 marked a new departure in the history of European trade unionism by creating a specific common agenda and institutional link between European trade unions. It aimed to overcome ideological differences and Cold War divides by a common action in the framework of the process of European integration. Such transformation was not an easy path considering that European Trade Unions have been associated with European integration since the negotiations and approval of the Treaty of Paris in 1951. Indeed, European trade unions have been associated in all Treaty negotiations and actively participated in the national ratification debates. Moreover, the building of a European integration of trade unions aimed to materialise a project for a Social Europe based on solidarity with had different meanings, considering the plurality of national traditions, ideologies and conjunctures. Social Europe was born between the institutional constraints marked by European Union institutions and the concrete social struggles and labor conflicts of European dimension to which national confederations and European industry federations had to confront. If the recent historiography has confirmed the defeat of the Social Europe project designed by the ETUC during its first decade of existence (L.Warlouzet, 2017), it has also concluded that the legal foundations of Social Europe were designed from the Single European Act (1985) to the Treaty of Maastricht (1991) and Amsterdam (1997), with the inclusion of the Social Protocol, which decisively opened up the possibility of European industrial relations. (A.Varsori, L.Mechi, 2019). From the Treaty of Nice (2000) to the Constitutional Treaty and the Treaty of Lisbon (2009), the ETUC and its various components have developed an increasingly critical approach with European institutions, and in particularly with the European Court of Justice, which has been, together with the European Commission and the Ministries of labour of Member states, the key institutions in the definition of the limits of Social Europe. There is an agreement that the action for Social Europe has implied legal and political activism from the part of European trade unions in particular cases directly related to labour conflicts.

This working group aim to bring together those historians interested in the organising of labour for concrete labour issues at the European level from the factory level to the firm and political- institutional levels (local council, regional powers, national and European level). Departing from the network that they created for the writing of the 40th year of the history of the European Trade Union Confederation and national trade unions (Tilly and Ciampani (eds) 2017) the group aims to continue this cooperation by extending the reflection to the history of the European federations which had to confront precisely such struggles from below and find ways to build European solidarity not just across borders but also across sectors by bringing those conflicts to the European institutional arena also in particular periods of European integration. Last, but not least, the group would like to engage into a historiographical reflexion from on-going projects about the history of European trade unionism in the context of European integration and international solidarity driven by European trade unions.

In 2017 the working group brought together researchers working on the European metallurgy sector from the 1960s to 1990s. In 2019 they extended the reflection to the national debates about economic and monetary union of European integration as conceived by trade unions since the 1960s to the 1990s. In 2021 we would like to focus on the role that European trade unions played in the shaping of European Union law with a special, but not exclusive, attention to European Treaties.

We aim in particular for papers to build panels addressing:

  • The role of European industrial federations in shaping European Union law departing from the European Federation of Metallurgy to continue the past reflection about the concrete European labour relations in steel, shipbuilding and automobile sectors. We welcome papers dealing also with other industrial sectors like coal, textiles and aeronautics.
  • The history of other industry federations like the European public services Unions (EPSU), the European Transport Federation (ETF) or UNI-Europe. We welcome papers dealing with directives, legal cases or labour conflicts which changed European Union Law.
  • The position of European trade unions (both national and sectorial level) towards the Treaties of Paris (ECSC), Rome (EEC-Euratom), the Single European Act, the Maastricht Treaty and the Treaty of Amsterdam. Which were the debates and positions within trade unions in relationship to such a critical topic for European integration?
  • The role of the ETUC in the regulation of EU law from 1973 in the form of discussions with the European Commission in the form of legislative initiatives regulating EU labour law.

This call for papers is not just addressed to labour historians, but it also aims to engage into a reflection on how to write a new history of European trade unionism. Therefore, it welcome presentations from labour sociologists, political scientists specialised in EU integration and labour law scholars interested to engage with historical dimensions of European and international trade unionism.

Deadline for submissions

The deadline is 1 October 2020. The outcome of the selection will be communicated by November 2020.

How to apply

Send a 500-word abstract and short academic CV (max.500 word) to:

The proposal should include name, surname, current affiliation and contact details.