Working Papers

Worker Representation-An Informal Overview

In the postwar period, worker representation in industry has meant, if not quite all things to all men, at least different things to different people. As a generic term, it encompasses different functions and activities at different levels of industry: the worker may be represented in production management as well as in personnel management through an elected works council in the plant and possibly another companywide; he or she may also be represented in financial management or investment decision-making through worker-members on a board of directors; and/or he or she might “participate” in the profits or even the financial equity of the enterprise.

These different spheres of activity have been subject to different interpretations concerning their proper content, relative importance, and wider significance by philosophical and practicing politicians, by employers and other business managers, by economists and economic policymakers, and by trade unionists. What follows are some informal observations under each heading. They are largely the product of casual observation and idle speculation rather than systematic research, and they by no means do justice to the voluminous literature in this diverse area.