Why are tradespeople (relatively) left-wing?

In the outpouring of commentary about the NSW election the old stereotype of conservative tradesman reappeared. I looked at the 2010 Australian Election Survey. Unfortunately it asked few questions with a direct relevance to class politics. Past scholarship did address this question Class Analysis and Contemporary Australia sought to test Marxist and Weberian models of class.  But one question that does touch on this (and which is relevant to the suggestion that self-employed workers have repudiated trade unionism) is that of whether trade unions have too much power. I have divided respondents into 4 occupational groups: managers and farmers, professionals, tradespeople and workers. The first three are self-defined, the last is consists of the occupational categories of clerical, sales, machine operators and labourers together with community and personal services. Here I am following the Marxist rejection of a division between manual and non-manual workers.I then distinguished between the employed and the self-employed (the later includes employers)

Trade Unions too powerful: agree & strongly agree (%)

Self-employed Employed
Managers & farmers 82.8 62.3
Professionals 44.1 42.9
Trades 58.3 38.9
Workers (ex trades) 64.5 47.1

Among employees tradespeople are the most sympathetic towards unions. Perhaps their possession of skill assets leads them to resent managerial authority. It is interesting that the employment status of professionals makes little difference to their attitudes towards unions, perhaps perhaps professional status inculcates a strong identity that is largely uninfluenced by employment position. Self-employed tradespeople are hostile to unions but less so than other self-employed workers. It is also likely that more self-employed tradespeople are employers as well which would be likely to encourage hostility towards unions among those tradespeople who are neither employees nor employees it is likely that there is greater sympathy towards unions. The hostility towards unions about self-employed workers is noteworthy in particular as a reasonable portion of them may be ‘dependent contractors’ who are largely disguised employees. The possession of skill credentials be they trade or professional inspires skepticism of authority in a managerial capitalist society.

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