Beliefs and trade union support for trade liberalisation in the US and the UK: the AFL-CIO and the TUC compared Articles uri icon

publication date

  • July 2018

start page

  • 769

end page

  • 797


  • 21

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1408-6980


  • This article applies an interpretive approach to behaviour to explain why the United States' American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) has opposed free trade agreements, whereas the British Trade Union Congress (TUC) has endorsed them and why the AFL-CIO shifted its position on trade liberalisation around 1970. The AFL-CIO has opposed FTAs because it views past costs of trade liberalisation as excessive and believes that FTAs do not protect workers enough against surges in imports. The British TUC has accepted FTAs and the enlargement of the EU because it sees no economic alternative to open markets. On a substantive level, the article describes how the US and the British trade union confederations have approached trade liberalisation and FTAs. On an analytical level, the article emphasises the autonomy of individual and group beliefs with respect to structures and with respect to dominant ideas and therefore the need to examine these beliefs when explaining behaviour.


  • constructivism; european union; free trade agreements; united kingdom; united states; trade unions