Ultimately, my research is trying to answer the question “are trade and labor union workers more class conscious than non-unionized workers?” The project is mixed methods, and I will be using both a descriptive, cross-sectional survey design and exploratory, semi-structured focus group interviews. The specific goal of this methodology is to understand how participants in two samples, non-unionized workers and unionized workers, think of their own class and material wellbeing, how they feel about politics that affect them as members of this class, and determine how they or if they participate in class action such as rallies, strikes, slowdowns, or protests. The exploratory phase will incorporate the findings of the survey data into the focus group interview process with union members to understand how unionization has or has not affected how they think about class or how they do class action. My hypothesis is that the responses of unionized and non-unionized workers will not be significantly different and that the presence of a union alone does not influence people’s attitudes or behavior regarding class or class action.
The survey instrument itself utilizes questions from existing survey designs on the subject of class consciousness as well as questions about social and political action that were obtained from this cross-national study of political action. The attitudinal questions seek to operationalize pro-worker or anti-worker attitudes (attitudes towards overprivileged/underprivileged groups, personal placement to the political left/right, subjective class identification, etc.), whereas the behavioral questions try to operationalize the respondent’s propensity to engage in political or social action (Do you approve of protests? Are protests effective? How often to you participate in protests? etc.). The questions to be asked during the focus group portion of the research will be determined based on the results of the quantitative data, focusing mostly on explaining the results to the focus group, asking them if the data is surprising, asking whether they think being in a union had an effect on their responses and so on.
The purpose of using mixed methods in my research is to attempt to bring together two prevailing ideologies that have emerged in the class consciousness literature. One camp believes that class consciousness can be quantified by measuring people’s political affiliations and dispositions, relying on survey methods to gauge the “pro-worker” attitudes of a sample to ascribe class consciousness. The other camp believes that class consciousness is something latent in the mind of workers that is only illicited in situations of deliberate class antagonism, such as strikes or protests, and typically ascribes class consciousness based on how readily workers embrace these activities. By developing a survey measure that incorporates both attitudinal and behavioral measures of “class conscious” traits, I hope to be able to use this research to also analyze the utility of survey designs as a method of measuring class consciousness and also investigate whether these qualities are more prevalent among unionized workers, which most of the theoretical literature (Marx, Lenin, Gramsci) assumes to be true.
In order to minimize the risk of occupation influencing survey results, I will be looking at two samples with the same occupation; parcel delivery drivers, namely those working for either UPS or FedEx. The Richmond area is suitable for this research because two major parcel delivery services, UPS and FedEx, both have shipment offices either within or directly outside of the city. Further, UPS has an established unionized workforce represented by Teamsters Local #322 whose office is located within the city. The presence of an established union in the area ensures significant representation of both non-unionized and unionized workers in the quantitative portion of this research.
I plan to use a non-probability availability sampling technique to select a sample of non-unionized parcel drivers for participation. Ideally, this would involve the recruitment of employees from both UPS and FedEx. Utilizing a simple random sampling procedure for such a population seems nigh impossible. Given the unlikelihood that an employer or manager would give me access to a full list of their location’s employees, I would have to be able to recruit as many participants as possible in however many days or hours in the facility were allotted to me, hence my decision to use availability sampling. Another possible form of participant recruitment could be snowball sampling; after administering the survey instrument to the sample of unionized workers, I could ask them to give their coworkers my phone number so I could administer the survey or send it to them by mail to be completed. Both techniques would be considered haphazard and lacking generalizability, which is something to be considered when analyzing my data.
In regard to ethics, the greatest ethical concern with this methodology is assuring the anonymity of my respondents. All personal identifying information will omitted from my findings, however given that my subject matter and participant recruitment techniques are intrinsically tied to my respondents’ jobs, I have to consider that if any personal information were to be compromised, it could jeopardize the well-being of my patients depending on who in their workplace were to know how they responded.