My first academic article is hitting the press, published by the journal Politics & Society. If you have access to a university account, please download it from their website. Politics & Society is an expensive academic journal and my article, along with several commentaries written by other academics, are all locked behind a firewall. But you can read my article by clicking here. In addition, though the journal apparently solicited only critical commentaries, the editors are refusing to let me respond. As such, you can read my response to the commentaries by clicking here.
This article was just awarded the “Best Graduate Student Paper of the Year,” by the Labor Section of the American Sociological Association.
What follows is the ‘abstract’ for the article. Abstract is an academic term that basically equates to a summary of the key arguments I make.
Scholars attribute contemporary union failure to structural factors, such as the legal decision allowing striking workers to be permanently replaced, and to globalization. This paper examines the strategic choices made by New Labor’s leadership after their victory at the AFL-CIO in 1996, and the choices made by the breakaway unions that formed Change-to-Win (CTW). I identify the influence of Saul Alinsky in the background of many of the current New Labor leaders and attribute the strengths and weaknesses of New Labor’s organizing approach to Alinsky’s strengths and weaknesses. I argue that despite two decades of rhetoric about organizing and the difficulties presented by a hostile climate, a critical factor in labor’s decline rests with decisions within their control; their decisions to embrace corporate campaigns and narrowly defined interest-based politics, strategies that led unions away from workers and the workplace and put them at odds with unorganized workers and the community.
To listen to a podcast of a discussion of the article between myself and Doug Henwood on his radio show, see below.
The new governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, is a hedge fund manager whose salary last year was $60 million. He spent $65.9 million—including $27.6 million of his own money—buying his last election, and he’s about to introduce an austerity program that will make most folks in Illinois think they are living in austerity-wracked Greece, with less idyllic weather. While he’s generating national headlines by trash talking unions, he is quietly taking a scalpel to every important social program in the state, starting with an Illinois’ program which subsidizes high-quality childcare for 160,000 low income kids. Instead of extending a small tax increase that passed the Illinois legislature in 2011, staving off a crisis, he’s letting the increases expire. Rauner is methodically manufacturing an economic crisis for his state, one that will let him do what he has long been set on doing: shrink the government and squeeze the 99 percent.
To read the full story, click here.
Unions are in trouble. Short of a giant meteor crashing on top of the nation’s union headquarters emblazoned with the words, “warning, you will soon be crushed by right-to-work laws,” few things could be clearer from the Supreme Court’s Harris v. Quinn ruling.
Harris v. Quinn unites some of the most toxic trends in American labor tradition. It resurrects the worst of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, the racially motivated, sexist concept of “excluded workers,” and then joins it with one of the worst provisions of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, the so-called “right-to-work” legal framework which attempts to gut unions from the inside-out. (Although “right to work” has historically been a state’s rights concept, Harris v. Quinn effectively nationalizes it.)
In the hours since the ruling came down, labor has reacted much as it has to other assaults of the last few years: with a mix of head-scratching and denial. But as challenging as any solution might be, figuring out what to do is not astrophysics. To beat Harris v. Quinn and similar measures being thrown at workers and their unions, the labor movement must address what is happening to it internally.
To read the full article in The Nation magazine, click here.