Regional and global economic integration have substantially eroded the
ability of U.S. unions to protect their members' wages, benefits and employment
security. An immobile workforce increasingly confronts hyper-mobile capital
which can make good on threats to flee to lower-waged countries like Mexico
or Malaysia if its U.S. employees fail to provide sufficient concessions
(cf. Tilly 1995). The growing power imbalance between capital and labour
has been exacerbated in recent years through the codification of international
neoliberalism in the form of regional and global free trade and investment
pacts, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the
new World Trade Organization. By removing restrictions on the flow of goods
and capital, these agreements ease the relocation of enterprises and place
workers around the globe into direct competition for jobs. Today, for example,
multinational corporations (MNCs) employ upwards of a half-million workers
in about two thousand assembly plants in the export processing zone along
the U.S. border in Mexico. Many of these "maquiladoras" are transplants
from the U.S. that have fled the higher wages and more restrictive labour
and environmental standards in place in the U.S. Engineering this shift
toward global neoliberalism have been centrist and right-wing political
regimes in North America and elsewhere which have been altogether hostile
to labour's interests.
This, at least, is the most popular diagnosis of the crisis confronting
U.S. labour today, especially among union leadership and sympathetic observers.
It is a diagnosis that identifies capital and its neoconservative representatives
in government as the chief architects of labour's demise. And there is
certainly a good deal of truth to this account.
But is this the whole story? I think not. The problems facing the U.S.
labour movement-such as declining union density, difficulty in organizing
new union members, concessionary bargaining, etc. - began well before the
recent rush toward global neoliberalism was underway. It also affects industries
across the board, from the tradeable manufacturing sector to the largely
non-tradeable industries, such as meatpacking, services, and the public
sector. Regional and global economic integration has amplified labour's
crisis to be sure, but it did not induce it. It is more correct to say
that the forces of globalization have swamped an already listing ship.
This paper will present an alternative account of the crisis facing
U.S. labour--one that focuses on the question of union identity.
I will argue that U.S. unions have been undermined by a fundamental but
largely unacknowledged identity crisis. To pursue this matter we must ask
what is it that U.S. unions do, what have they become, and why they have
failed in the mission they have set for themselves? The central point to
note in this regard is that there is no single model of unionism; instead,
union movements embrace particular visions that come to define their strategies
and goals (cf. Hyman 1994). When these strategies fail, we are therefore
encouraged to interrogate the adopted union identities.
The question of union identity bears directly on the question of possible
futures for the U.S. labour movement in an era of global economic integration.
I will argue that the U.S. labour movement has faltered in part because
of its particular self-identification, and because of the implications
of this particular identity for inclusion and exclusion--for who is defined
"in" (as viable union members) and who is defined "out" (and therefore
excluded from organizing campaigns, etc.). Historically, U.S. unions defined
some U.S. workers as appropriate members and therefore to be their primary
concern, thereby excluding not only workers in other countries but also
many workers in the U.S. Moreover, by defining union membership by exclusive
reference to employment status, the union movement excluded many other
members of society and narrowly proscribed the union mission around employment
From this perspective, globalization is an important process because
it heightens the crisis facing the labour movement and, thereby, forces
reconsideration of the questions of union identity and the terms of inclusion
and exclusion. The paper draws on these insights to project two possible
futures for U.S. unionism: one that retains its basic identity and attempts
to restore the conditions for its success in an integrating global economy;
and one that fundamentally challenges this identity.
II. Social versus Business Unionism
Progressive union activists have criticized U.S. unionism for the past
several decades for having forfeited its chief sources of legitimacy and
strength (cf. Moody 1988). Critics charge that two models of unionism have
competed over the past century in the U.S.: a broadly defined "social unionism"
that speaks to the issue of social justice in and outside of the employment
context, and a much more narrow "pure and simple" unionism that accepts
the broad contours of capitalist society but which asserts the right of
workers to secure a decent living standard while being protected from arbitrary
management practices. The former model identifies unions as vehicles for
broad social mobilizations against entrenched privilege and inequality
of incomes and life opportunities; the latter sees unions as partners with
the state and business in achieving competitiveness for U.S. firms while
ensuring that some of the gains achieved through productivity increases
flow to union members. The former is predicated on a multifaceted campaign
for equality and justice; the latter sees unions as managers of the conflict
between capital and labour.
To the dismay of many activists and progressive observers, the latter
model of unionism has largely eclipsed the former in the U.S. The defeat
of social unionism occurred over the course of a century of orchestrated
government repression and corporate resistance to more radical unions and
union activists, often with the tacit support of conservative union leaders.
The payoff for the advocates of pure and simple unionism was the extension
of important legal protections to unions in their efforts to secure employer
recognition and collective bargaining agreements (Milton 1982).
Why did unions themselves forfeit the broader vision of union identity
represented by social unionism? The most common explanations cite the related
factors of the co-optation (and even corruption) of union leadership, and
the demise of union democracy. Union officials came to be more concerned
with the protection of the union (and their own places of leadership within
it) than with the interests of ordinary working people. Centralization
of union authority allowed these leaders to dictate the unions' agenda
and to defeat progressive opponents, while insulating themselves from the
life circumstances of those they purported to represent. Facing strong
resistance from capital and the state to more expansive campaigns for social
justice, union leaders found it expedient to shape union identity into
forms that encouraged least opposition to union survival.
The prescription offered by many progressives follows directly. Unions
must be democratized through decentralization of authority, to allow rank
and file union members to take back control of their own institutions.
Powerful central union hierarchies must be dismantled to prevent the capture
of union power by special interests. Freed from such constraints, union
members will revert to broader economic and social agendas, forge coalitions
with other progressive groups (both at home and abroad) in pursuit of social
and economic justice, and re-instill mass mobilizations and grass-roots
activism as the chief union weapons in campaigns against corporate and
state power. All told, this devolution of authority from the center to
the rank and file will serve to restore union legitimacy and vitality,
and will thereby inaugurate innovative new campaigns to organize and protect
communities of working people.2
But this progressive diagnosis and prescription misses something important.
Although focused on union identity, this diagnosis fails to recognize the
class nature of contemporary U.S. unions. As Annunziato (1990) has
argued, the collective bargaining focus of U.S. unionism-which the progressive
perspective largely accepts-reflects a transformation of U.S. unions into
capitalist enterprises that, like other businesses, sell a commodity for
a fee. U.S. unionism should be seen as service sector enterprises, not
unlike insurance companies. Following Annunziato, we may call the service
being sold "union representation." This is reflected in the priority placed
on collective bargaining as the means to secure employment protections
to customers (union members). The terms of the contract provide due process
in cases of discipline, wage increases, a degree of job security (e.g.,
seniority protection), etc. Unions attempt to sell this service through
organizing drives, during which the union must convince potential customers
of their need for the service.
The service union representation has several peculiar attributes relative
to other services. First, potential customers (unorganized workers) must
commit to its purchase prior to its production. Production of the service
comes in the form of initial contract negotiations, during which the union
attempts to force a firm to provide the protections and benefits that it
promised during the organizing campaign. Second, production of the service
requires the willing efforts--often herculean--of those who purchase it.
That is, union members must be enlisted in an often protracted struggle
to secure a contract that provides the protections and benefits they seek.
Like certain other goods, such as handguns, or abortions, it is one that
is produced and marketed under siege--against the opposition of
well-mobilized groups with a strong interest in preventing its existence.
Corporations undertake tremendous expense and effort to disrupt union sales
efforts. Third, the union's effort to overcome employer opposition also
often requires a broad campaign to secure community support beyond those
who will receive the direct benefits of union representation.
In short, the successful appearance of this service requires a continuing
political campaign to secure its "conditions of existence" (Resnick and
Wolff 1987). At a minimum, this requires the provision of free labour and
the acceptance of substantial risk by members; mobilization of support
from outsiders; a combination of legal and extra-legal strategies by the
union and union supporters to win corporate acquiescence, etc.
Contradictory Conditions of Existence of Commodity Unionism
This aspect of union representation rests on a fundamental contradiction
that must be continually managed by the union movement. One condition of
existence for the sale of any commodity is that it not be generally available
outside of the market for it. People will not buy a commodity when it or
some close substitute is available for free. Like other commodity providers,
then, the union must market something that customers cannot otherwise obtain.
But this means that unions must be wary of government initiatives to generalize
the benefits of union representation to non-union members. And indeed,
U.S. unions have historically displayed an ambivalent attitude toward universal
employment protections, and have concentrated their legislative efforts
on securing protections for union rights and other conditions for unions
to be able to provide union representation (Brody 1967; Aronowitz 1983).
The need to secure this condition relates directly to the matter of
inclusion/exclusion. To be marketable, union representation must entail
a differential: union members must receive something not available
to non-members. The benevolent face of this differential is that it serves
as an inducement to non-union members to join and thereby enjoy this benefit.
But the differential is less benevolent when combined with exclusionary
practices that define some workers (and other members of society) as ineligible;
the non-unionized then serve as the "other" against which union membership
is defined. The historical reluctance of U.S. unions to organize among
women, ethnic and racial minorities, those who work without wages (such
as those who perform household labour) or who are outside the workforce,
the self-employed and workers outside of the U.S. may be seen from this
perspective as a malevolent complement to the commodity producing nature
of the pure and simple model that has come to predominate in the U.S. labour
But this condition of existence confronts a second, equally important
condition that is largely hostile to it. As we have seen, the fact that
this service is produced and marketed under siege requires that union members
and others bear risk and provide unpaid labour (among other things) to
ensure its success. But why would they do this? Those who buy Fords do
not regularly mobilize to secure access to this commodity, and would no
doubt find a request that they do so to be laughable. Historically, workers
have undertaken such efforts precisely because and to the degree that
union representation is seen not to be a commodity, but a social movement.
People generally do not put their incomes, careers, and even lives on the
line to ensure the production and sale of a commodity--but they do, sometimes,
when some higher (non-pecuniary) value is at stake. Some people campaign
for the right to buy and possess handguns because they see the matter as
a constitutional right; others advocate for access to legal and safe abortions
because they see it as an expression of a woman's fundamental right to
exert control over her own body. Similarly, workers sometimes engage in
struggles to secure union representation in the belief that so doing defends
a fundamental right: the union organizing campaign reflects the aspiration
for human dignity and justice. On these grounds, workers have historically
fought against the state, police, corporate power, and sometimes the clergy,
community leaders and even family members to secure union representation.
And indeed, they are warranted in doing so-union organization is
a fundamental right; union struggles are potentially struggles for
higher human and social values; the fight to secure union representation
can be and often is an ennobling experience.
But herein lies the contradiction: securing the first condition of existence
(the union differential) may undermine the second, especially if eligibility
for union representation depends on restrictive criteria that exclude many
who need collective organization and protection. The commodity nature of
union representation may be exposed, jeopardizing the union's purchase
as a social movement worthy of broad support and sacrifice. In this case,
unions may come to be branded as a special interest whose claim to social
movement status is self-serving and undeserved. When this happens, the
broader community may not be so willing to endorse union strikes, while
even union member might chafe at the idea of letting union leaders dictate
how they should vote (nor would they let insurance industry executives
do so), what terms of employment they should accept, or what they should
be prepared to sacrifice for the "good of the union" (cf. Tasini 1995).
The most important manifestation of this contradiction may be that workers
have come to take an instrumental as opposed to expressive
view of union membership.3 Having been trained by
unions themselves to see unions as providers of a differential, they may
come to evaluate union membership against just this criterion. Rather than
ask how union membership contributes to a campaign for social justice,
they may come to ask whether they are getting good value for their dues
payments. Is the union in a position to deliver the goods it purports to
guarantee? Will the cost of striking be offset by the direct financial
improvements that the strike might induce? Just as consumers of other goods
might perform a cost/benefit analysis in contemplation of a purchase, so
might union members come to assess their union membership in these terms.
The Impact of Globalization
What light does this analysis shed on the question of the impact of
globalization on the fortunes of U.S. unionism? Globalization has undermined
the ability of U.S. unions to deliver higher wages, employment protections,
etc. On this, there is little disagreement today. But we can now see that
this is a daunting problem for U.S. unions precisely because of the degree
to which they have adopted an identity as commodity producer. Having "advertized"
the union differential, they now find themselves victims of the very standards
of assessment that they themselves devised. U.S. workers can hardly be
faulted for abstaining from union participation today on instrumental grounds
when this is exactly how unions have defined themselves for much of the
postwar period. In the era of globalization, when unions are having greater
difficulty producing the goods, union membership may not seem to be a particularly
good buy. To the contrary, unionizing may be seen to induce a result quite
opposite to what is being marketed--not least, leading to reduced job security
as employers threaten to fire union activists and/or relocate to lower-waged
sites in response to union demands.
To summarize, globalization has made it difficult for U.S. unions to
protect union members, to be sure. But it has not been the primary determinant
of falling union density, or the erosion of worker commitment to the union
movement. Rather, these debilitating trends are the outcome of the failure
of a particular union identity--that of capitalist producer of the
commodity union representation--which has been exacerbated by economic
globalization. A union movement primarily oriented around broad, inclusive
social campaigns for economic and social justice might indeed find enhanced
worker commitment during particularly tough moments. But the commodity
nature of U.S. unionism has ultimately come to obstruct this kind of commitment
among most U.S. workers.
III. Possible Futures for U.S. Labour in an Era of Globalization
Following from the above, we can discern two distinct futures for labour.
The first largely takes union identity and practice (including its commodity-producing
character) for granted, and seeks to reestablish the conditions for its
survival and success in the new context of global economic integration.
This is perhaps the most likely future, and it is already underway. In
this case, for example, U.S. unions might be expected to respond to NAFTA
by deepening their cooperation with Mexican and Canadian unions. A bold
gesture in this direction would be the institution of continent-wide bargaining,
either within MNCs or across an entire industry. Less dramatically, we
might expect to see increased transnational strike support, boycotts, and
other acts of direct action. These kinds of initiatives are already underway
(for examples, see Reza, Peake and Dyck 1996; Kidder and McGinn 1995; Hunter
1995; Moody and McGinn 1992; and Brecher and Costello 1991). This approach
also entails efforts to secure the harmonization of labour protections
across the continent. This is intended to prevent what has come to be called
"social dumping," or the race by corporations to seek out the lowest labour,
environmental and other standards. For example, during the campaign against
NAFTA, some U.S., Canadian and Mexican unions fought for the institution
of a "social charter," patterned on that adopted by the European Union,
to ensure the protection of the fundamental rights of workers across the
continent (Castañeda and Heredia 1992). This future might also entail
pooled organizing efforts to establish unions throughout the production
facilities of MNCs operating on the continent.
We can note two patterns of organizational form that have emerged that,
while not reducible to this agenda, have been broadly supportive of it
in recent years.4 The first entails the formation
of transnational coalitions of existing institutions in pursuit
of particular ends, such as the successful conclusion of a strike. In this
model, unions sometimes reach out to their counterparts in other countries
for mutual support, financial and technical assistance, information, and
solidarity (see Cavanagh and Broad 1996; Herod 1995; Armbruster 1995; and
Moody and McGinn 1992). This approach largely reproduces on an international
scale the kinds of coalitions that unions have pursued within the U.S.
over the past century (see Brecher and Costello 1990). Often such coalitions
are run by union officials, and last only as long as the specific campaign
around which they emerge. The second form entails the formation of looser
transnational networks of activists and community members that reach
beyond unions and other formal organizations. Rather than pursue specific
goals through orchestrated actions by existing organizations, transnational
networks often seek personal and community empowerment, consciousness raising,
and changes in the norms and behaviors of target institutions (such as
MNCs, the IMF or, indeed, unions). Networks create opportunities for transnational
exchanges of workers and community members in pursuit of better mutual
understanding and empathy. These exchanges may have the effect of altering
aspirations and goals as members come to articulate their different agendas
into a complementary (albeit loosely defined) whole. Rather than channel
member participation into a narrow range of official actions, networks
generate a multiplicity of strategies.
What are we to make of this possible future for labour? These initiatives
mark important steps of solidarity, and their success would bring about
a welcome reversal of the shift in power from labour to capital. It might
be expected to induce greater benefits from trade, greater income equality,
and a better transnational understanding within these labour movements.
These are altogether eminently worthy goals.
But a qualification is in order. As articulated by many of its proponents,
this model continues the commodity-producing nature of U.S. unionism. This
places severe obstacles in the path of those who would restore the social
movement aspect of unionism--including those who seek the formation of
enduring coalitions and extra-coalition networks. This is because the model
forestalls but does not resolve the fundamental identity crisis examined
above. The contradiction attending the commodity-producing union is easy
to overlook during periods of mass mobilization in pursuit of union organization--indeed,
it must be repressed at such times if the mobilization is to occur. The
birth of energetic coalitions may be taken as a sign of a new openness
on the part of unions, a new commitment to a broader social agenda. But
the contradiction is not resolved for all that. Most importantly, this
model retains the imperative that the union provide services not universally
available to workers and other members of society. Who is now to be excluded?
Those who cannot secure employment in organized (or effectively organizable)
facilities? Those who support themselves and their families through small-scale
farming? Those who migrate illegally into the U.S. in search of employment,
and who therefore face tremendous obstacles in securing union representation?
Against whom is the union differential to be calculated? What social protections
cannot be universalized through state provision so as to ensure the need
for the service union representation?5
Let us now consider a different approach which opens up a family of
alternative futures for the U.S. labour movement. This approach entails
a reworking of the class character of the union and consequently, the definition
of union representation. In this approach, unions would take account of
the fact that people identify not just (or even primarily) as workers,
but that this is but one identity that defines their full subjectivity.
In their everyday lives, people are also consumers, and the nature of the
goods and services to which they gain access may fundamentally affect the
quality of their lives. But they are also defined in terms of their citizenship
(or lack thereof), and their sense of the attending rights and obligations
may run to the core of their self-understanding and value. And they are
also family and community members; they are marked by their race, ethnicity,
their gender, and by their relationship to the natural environment. These
distinct identities overlap in shaping their aspirations, needs and desires--in
constituting them as human actors (cf. Laclau and Mouffe 1985; Waterman
1996). Hence, their concerns range from matters of employment to the quality
of life much more broadly defined; from the quality of the physical environment,
to the quality of educational opportunities and health care, to the responsiveness
of government services, to the viability of the family unit, and so forth.
People may identify as much (or more) as women, or as oppressed minorities,
as they do as workers.
Armed with this recognition, a reconstituted union movement might come
to recognize that it has a role in constructing social movements that span
sites in the community, from the workplace to the household, the school
and the hospital (cf. Tasini 1995; Waterman 1993). The union might set
for itself the task of speaking to the full human actor, rather than hiving
off and privileging one limited sphere of social existence. A reconstituted
union movement might therefore seek to organize people around an institution
like a corporation or the state by integrating their diverse encounters
with the institution; by speaking to the multiple demands they have with
respect to the institution. For example, students and teachers might be
organized into the same union, to address teacher compensation to be sure,
but also student-teacher ratios, the quality of and access to education,
and the need of adults for continuing educational services. Critically,
such unions would set for themselves the task of advancing the interests
and rights of all workers--waged and non-waged--and those outside the workforce.
While organization of waged workers would remain an important tactic, such
organization would be in service of much broader social objectives, and
much wider constituencies.
We might ask how such a reconstituted union movement would interact
with other kinds of organizations? And how would it be articulated with
the new domestic and transnational networks? These are difficult questions,
but we might hazard the prediction that such an inclusive, non-commodity
unionism would be inclined to form deeper, more resilient coalitions in
pursuit of a broader range of political, social and economic objectives.
Freed from the burden of protecting the union differential, the union movement
might enter into organic coalitions that promote the interests of all working
people and others lacking sufficient political efficacy. Moreover, such
a union movement might provide an institutional home and support for all
manner of networks.6 Rather than organize on the basis
of the union differential, this kind of union movement would claim rightfully
to provide support for diverse campaigns (formal and informal) that seek
the end of exploitation, domination (based on gender, race, ethnicity,
etc.), and inequality of substantive freedom. But this unionism would not
displace networks. As Kidder and McGinn note, what may be needed is a combination
Networks-based on interdependent relationships-are effective in workers'
transnational organizing because they permit rapid decisionmaking, exchange
of timely information, and grassroots relationship-building among participants.
However, to sustain campaigns and infrastructure, transnational organizing
may benefit from some centralized organizational forms that include greater
accountability and a firm financial base (1995, 21).
An expansive, non-commodity form of unionism might provide one means of
articulating these two forms into a coherent whole that draws on the respective
strengths of each.7
Tasini (1995) presents one possible approach for creating this inclusive
unionism. He argues for the expansion of existing Labour Councils--the
regional coalitions of local unions throughout the U.S. that direct the
political campaigns of the AFL-CIO--to include "a vast array of unique
and overlapping coalitions: labour, seniors, environmental, people of color,
children" (38). These new constituencies would pay dues and gain full membership
rights in the councils. Concomitantly, this reform would require that labour
cede absolute control of the councils and face the prospect of their engaging
issues and agendas far beyond those traditionally associated with organized
How might such an expansive social unionism operate differently in international
affairs, such as in the wake of North American integration? First, unions
would take up not just the matter of social dumping as capital relocates
in pursuit of cheaper labour, but also the right of Mexican labour to migrate
in search of better opportunities. Indeed, labour mobility across the U.S.-Mexican
border goes to the heart of the contradiction of U.S. unionism. Historically,
U.S. unions have taken a dim view of Mexican immigration because these
immigrants were seen to threaten the wages of U.S. workers and to provide
employers with a docile workforce. This concern is indeed valid in the
context of commodity unionism. Unions have sought to preserve the union
differential by excluding those who might threaten it, including workers
abroad. An expansive social unionism would be inclined to take an entirely
different approach. Migrant workers--both legal and illegal--would be recognized
as fully-enfranchised union members with particularly daunting needs that
only an inclusive union could meet. Such a union would face the difficult
task of negotiating among the interests of new immigrants and native U.S.
workers. We should expect that managing this tension might lead to energetic
union campaigns against the development strategies imposed on Mexico by
the IMF, World Bank and other multilateral agencies-just as some global
networks have undertaken over the past decade. It might lead to an interrogation
of the role of the U.S. government and financial interests in supporting
these development models. In short, it would encourage U.S. unions to investigate
what kinds of internationalist foreign policy is in the collective interests
of U.S. and Mexican workers.9
Such unionism would also include as full members those concerned about
the environmental effects of economic integration, such as the ecological
crisis caused by the corporate activity along the Mexican-U.S. border.
Self-identified environmentalists would work within expanded unions
to hammer out policies that speak to the needs both of workers for employment
and economic security and of their communities for clean water and air,
proper sewage systems, freedom from hazardous wastes, etc. It must be emphasized
that this model of unionism entails organic linkages between environmentalists
and worker advocates in an organization that understands its mission is
to speak to the full range of concerns that workers (and others) have,
rather than external linkages of coalition between separate organizations
with separate, narrow agendas. Decisions about which matters to take up
and which to leave to others would be based on tactical considerations
taken by representatives of a fully diverse union movement, rather than
be defined in advance by simplistic rules of exclusion and by the a priori
foreclosure on debate over what a union is to be.10
Both of these alternative models entail internationalist impulses, the
former in the traditional form of linkages among workers, the latter, in
a deeper form of a more thorough integration of organization of citizens.
The former leaves largely untouched the question of who is to be a union
member, and more importantly, what a union is to be. The latter places
on the agenda a difficult but potentially rewarding debate about the kinds
of unionism that will be most likely to engender campaigns for social justice,
and about who shall be included in a revitalized union movement. It widens
substantially the range of potential union members, while promising to
deepen the attachment of members to their unions. It imports into the union
movement difficult debates about political agendas, principles, fairness
and equality, and hence threatens all manner of difficult disagreement
and ruptures. To date, the U.S. labour movement has attempted to repress
these tensions by narrowly proscribing union membership and the role of
unionism; but they have not gone away or been rendered inconsequential
for all that. Far better, it would seem, to bring them in, where they can
be expressed and negotiated in pursuit of the broader social objectives
that have remained, dormant perhaps, the most valuable part of the union
1. Cf. Waterman (1996), who argues that solidarity based on "identity"
(e.g., "Workers of the world unite") always entails exclusion based on
2. This perspective on the causes of and solutions to labour's crisis
has been advanced forcefully and consistently by the Detroit-based Labour
Notes, an independent, activist-oriented labour newsletter. See DeMartino
(1991) for a critical assessment of this perspective.
3. See Hyman (1975; 1971) for nuanced accounts of the relationship between
union practice, structure, and membership orientation.
4. This argument draws directly on Kidder and McGinn's (1995) concise
and useful discussion of these forms.
5. Elsewhere (DeMartino 1991) I have investigated the manner in which
the emphasis by U.S. unions on collective bargaining disrupts coalitions
between unions and other progressive organizations. Despite good intentions,
the commodity nature of unionism obstructs the formation of the kinds of
deep and enduring coalitions that many progressive activists seek to respond
to economic globalization. See also Brecher (1972).
6. This model of unionism is compatible with the model of "social movement
unionism" (SMU) presented by Waterman (1993). In this article Waterman
explores at length the defining attributes of SMU and the differences between
it and the classical socialist model of unionism.
7. Many observers have identified the fragility of networks and coalitions.
In Drainville's words, "the instant political communities formed to protect
jobs, union rights, cheap medication, land reform or abortion rights are
little more than sacked potatoes that scatter as soon as the immediate
menaces holding them together temporarily recede" (1995, 226). The model
presented here might provide the institutional epoxy necessary to sustain
and strengthen these kinds of mobilizations.
8. Tasini discusses the "Workers' Justice Centers" of UNITE, the new
textile and garment workers' union, as an example of this kind of initiative
9. DeMartino and Cullenberg (1994) investigate the kinds of internationalist
global policy regimes that an expansive social unionism might seek.
10. We should not presume that the simple act of opening up union membership
would lead to easy resolution of the kinds of conflicts that often arise
between separate movements, such as the women's and labour movements. What
the proposal seeks is to create space for and an expectation of the articulation
of the alternative political and social agendas that different constituencies
embrace--a process that might alter the identities and aspirations of each.
More prosaically, this inclusive model would encourage give and take among
these diverse constituencies (cf. Tasini 1995).
Annunziato, Frank. 1990. "Commodity Unionism," Rethinking Marxism,
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Armbruster, Ralph. 1995. "Cross-National Organizing Strategies," Critical
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Aronowitz, Stanley. 1983. Working class Hero: A New Strategy for
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Brecher, Jeremy. 1972. Strike! Boston: South End.
Brecher, Jeremy and Tim Costello, 1991. Global Village vs. Global
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_____. 1990. Building Bridges: The Emerging Grassroots Coalition
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