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N° 99 ( 2019)

English Abstracts. Special Issue - Youth, work and activism

Young workers and activist production: combining professional activity and personal beliefs in an activist professional stance


The article focuses on young workers in the activist production field, defined as production that explicitly expresses a militant stance. Looking at several fields of the social economy and the online business La Ruche qui dit Oui !, the research encountered individuals looking for new forms of labour and/or employment. Their profiles were similar, all sharing the urge to combine personal beliefs and remuneration in socially responsible professional activity. From the outset of their professional lives, these young workers seek out “meaningful” employment in defence of a cause. Some of these young workers combine this with a rejection of waged employment, preferring a labour framework that gives them autonomy and flexibility.

Keywords: young workers, labour, activism, activist production, social and solidarity-based economy, employment.

Independent contractor careers and (critical) labour relations: how bicycle couriers bring disputes to the surface


A study of the “careers” of young independent contractors working for meal delivery platforms sheds light on their ambivalent relationship to labour. Analysing the social conditions of access to the activity, how entrants are socialised, and the underlying drivers of tensions and crises reveals how such points of ambivalence feed into activism. The various forms of labour collective with which individuals identify and their place within them determine labour relations that are more or less distant. While individuals may be critical, their forms of activism vary according to their profiles and the resources they can call on.

Keywords: independent contractor, platform capitalism, professionalisation, collective action, critique, career.

The distance between young employees and the possibilities for collective action


Drawing on an investigation of young hairdressers and beauticians, builders, and IT workers, the article explores the relationship between young employees and staff representatives and trade unions in sectors with typically low union membership. The young employees participating in the study are not among the categories most lacking in job security. However, they do work in professional settings that discourage them from exploring the various possibilities for collective action, particularly staff representation. The article also uncovers the range of mechanisms that generate distance between these young employees and bodies representing staff and qualifies the notion that young workers reject staff representatives and unions out of hand by foregrounding that outright rejection is just one form of distance. From the point of view of judgements on trade unionism, entry by means of socialisation sheds light on heterogeneous and socially sited representations of conflictuality and struggle.

Keywords: young employees, staff representatives, trade unions, small businesses, employment conditions, socialisation.

The challenges encountered by French trade unions in defending the cause of young workers

Sophie BÉROUD, Camille DUPUY, Marcus KAHMANN and Karel YON

This article explores the capacity of French trade unions to represent young workers. In a context of structurally weak unionisation, the proportion of young employees in unions is particularly low. Research to date has focused largely on the reasons why young workers join – or fail to join – unions. The present article takes a different approach, centred on the agency relationship between young workers and trade unions. The relationship is analysed with a focus on three points. In statistical terms, there is a clear discrepancy between the overall profile of young workers and that of young union members. Symbolically, the article demonstrates that the difficulties trade unions encounter in speaking on behalf of young people are rooted in part in the disputed nature of their agency in a variety of causes. Organisationally, the article foregrounds the confusion between various registers in union interventions targeting young people.

Keywords: young worker, agency relationship, trade union, youth movement, youth cause.


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