Workplace Struggles and Democracy: Challenges for Union Organizing

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1954 ... December 13, 2019

Workplace Struggles and Democracy: Challenges for Union Organizing

Sam Gindin

Jane McAlevey is everywhere these days. Recently appointed a senior fellow at Berkeley’s Labor Center, she is now also a regular columnist for both the Nation and Jacobin. Her webinar ("Organizing for Union Power") has a global audience. She continues to be called on to address unions and run training sessions in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Scotland, and Germany. In the midst of all this, McAlevey has just come out with a third book on unions and working-class struggles, A Collective Bargain: Unions, Organizing and the Fight for Democracy (and a fourth is not far behind).

McAlevey’s first book, Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell): My Decade Fighting for the Labor Movement, was published in 2014 in the context of a staggered and reeling labor movement. Workers had, by the time of the Great Financial Crisis of 2007--9, already suffered through a quarter century of reversals. It might have been expected that the crisis, further exposing the corporate and state elite’s false... promises and incompetence, would finally bring on a significant rebellion from the labor movement.

That didn’t happen. Though working people ended up paying for the bank bailouts through cuts in social programs and class inequalities soared even higher, the labor movement remained disoriented and on the defensive. The most significant aspect of the long years of defeat wasn’t so much the particular concessions imposed on working people as it was the cumulative impact on their lowered expectations. McAlevey, recognizing that the combination of no hope and no struggle was the main challenge to a working-class revival, aptly titled her book.

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