When Local Class Unionism Meets International Solidarity: A Case of Union Revitalisation in Turkey


  • Alpkan Birelma Özyeğin University




The article concerns the recent transformation and ensuing successes of a Turkish trade union of road transport workers called Tüm Taşıma İşçileri Sendikası (TÜMTİS). In the mid-2000s, TÜMTİS was mainly organised in small-sized freight companies having around 1 500 members with collective contracts. The strategic choice of a new leadership to concentrate on a large-scale, international firm with the support of Global Unions was the turning point. The ensuing United Parcel Service campaign ended with a collective agreement for nearly 2 700 new members in 2011. The union won its second large-scale organising victory at DHL in 2014. At the time of writing, a third large-scale firm is on the verge of recognition. To scrutinise this case, I use the power resources approach in a critical way. To the approach, I add an examination of the subjectivities of union leaders by drawing on the debates about different types of unionisms, importance of the ideology and motivations. I argue that the agency behind this revitalisation can be only explained by taking both its objectivities and subjectivities into account. While the class unionism embraced by TÜMTİS leaders explains the subjective side of the story, associational power from below and its meeting with international solidarity play the key role on the objective side.

Author Biography

Alpkan Birelma, Özyeğin University

Alpkan Birelma is an assistant professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Özyeğin University. A sociologist by training Birelma works on labour movements, sociology of work, and social classes. He has been volunteering in various labour organizations in Turkey since his undergraduate years.