|The Political Culture of Shop Floor Industrial Relations: England, 1780-1830|
|During the classic era of industrialization, shop floor industrial relations frequently were marked by a set of unique characteristics copied or adapted from the popular imagination of British political culture. Workplace demands for wage changes or the improvement of working conditions, for example, often took the form of petitions, imitating the long history of parliamentary and royal supplications. Early trade union organizations were rarely democratic, but much more often based upon representative systems of government. Similarly, trade union meetings were usually conducted along strict lines of parliamentary procedures. In one notable case, the conclusion of a strike witnessed the ‘chairing’ of the employer’s negotiating representative, an act clearly drawn from post-election celebrations.
This paper, therefore, suggests that the manner in which working-class trade unions found expression were not solely determined by allegedly objective forms of class interest. Instead, the political culture of individual nations as well as the people’s understanding of how the political system should operate had a significant influence upon both the forms of expression and the manner in which of shop floor industrial relations were conducted. Shop floor industrial relations in England, it will be argued, were the result of the complex and reciprocal interaction of economic interest and political culture.