Analyzing 20 Years of New Labor’s Leadership in the US Labor Movement

Politics & Society book cover

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.