Trade Unions and Lobbying: Fighting Private Interests While Defending the Public Interest?

Chiara Valentini, Øyvind Ihlen, Ian Somerville, Ketil Raknes, Scott Davidson


Although framing theory has been extensively studied in strategic communication comparatively, little is known about how trade unions, as a specific type of organization, use framing strategies to achieve their organizational goals. Trade unions frequently aim to present themselves as cause groups, campaigning for broader societal benefits and values. A key communicative challenge for them is to argue that the interest of their members equates to the public interest. How do trade unions communicatively construct links between union interests and the public interest? How is this strategy reconciled with the more conflict-oriented framing found in much traditional union discourse? This study reports the results of a qualitative three-case comparison of purposively selected trade union lobbying campaigns in Italy, Norway, and the United Kingdom. The analysis shows the versatility of public interest framing across different political systems and union trajectories, and illustrates how such a framing strategy is communicatively constructed and translated into specific symbolisms.


strategic communication, framing theory, lobbying campaigns, trade union, public interest, comparative case study, qualitative analysis

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