Employee Affinity Groups: Their Evolution from Social Movement Vehicles to Employer Strategies
Perspectives on work
Champaign : University of Illinois Press
42 - 45 p.
Diversity affinity groups can be defined as groups of employees within an organization who share a common identity, defined by race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or shared extra-organizational values or interests. Such groups may be more or less formally organized, and their relationship with management may vary from being adversarial to being cooperative or even fully co-opted by management. They operate outside the jurisdiction of collective bargaining laws. In some ways, it is nothing new to find workers banding together on the basis of their shared ethnicity, gender, religion or other commonalities. In the nineteenth century, craft unions were regularly organized according to ethnic and religious affiliations, and in the twentieth century, industrial unions like the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters were organized along lines of social identity as well. But in the early 1970s, diversity affinity groups first started cropping up in large companies--the most well known being the pioneering Black Caucus at Xerox Corporation. Unlike their predecessors in the labor movement, the members of these groups are generally white collar. And, of course, they are not formally recognized--in law or in practice--as legal representatives of workers’ interests. For these reasons, some dismiss these groups as mere window dressing--a distraction from stronger forms of worker voice, or, worse, employer dominated vehicles of worker co-optation. Yet, others have come to see them as an important part of the fabric of America’s ever-evolving system of industrial relations (...).