Mobilizing solidarity in factory occupations: activist responses to multinational plant closures

Ewan Gibbs*, Ewan Kerr

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Downloads (Pure)


Factory occupations are rare and sporadic events which shed light on the processes associated with the collective mobilization of workers’ power. This article utilizes Kelly’s agential and Atzeni’s structural explanations of worker mobilization to examine two disputes which took place during Britain’s long experience of deindustrialization: the occupations of Caterpillar’s tractor factory in Uddingston, Scotland, during 1987 and Vestas’ wind turbine plant on the Isle of Wight during 2009. Each occupation shared the context of multinational divestment and collective workforce grievance based on a common perception that their plant was economically viable and vital to the local economy. However, contrasting sources of leadership mobilized this sentiment in each case: union stewards from within Caterpillar, socialist activists from outside at Vestas. The article concludes that an effective explanation of occupations must synthesize structural and agential factors, emphasizing the coalescing role of activist networks and workers’ perceptions of their labour’s social utility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)612-633
Number of pages22
JournalEconomic and Industrial Democracy
Issue number2
Early online date17 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • Deindustrialization
  • industrial democracy
  • mobilization
  • solidarity
  • trade unions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


Dive into the research topics of 'Mobilizing solidarity in factory occupations: activist responses to multinational plant closures'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this