The Next Upsurge: Labor and the New Social Movements

The Next Upsurge: Labor and the New Social Movements

by Dan Clawson
     
 

The U.S. labor movement may be on the verge of massive growth, according to Dan Clawson. He argues that unions don't grow slowly and incrementally, but rather in bursts. Even if the AFL-CIO could organize twice as many members per year as it now does, it would take thirty years to return to the levels of union membership that existed when Ronald Reagan was elected

Overview

The U.S. labor movement may be on the verge of massive growth, according to Dan Clawson. He argues that unions don't grow slowly and incrementally, but rather in bursts. Even if the AFL-CIO could organize twice as many members per year as it now does, it would take thirty years to return to the levels of union membership that existed when Ronald Reagan was elected president. In contrast, labor membership more than quadrupled in the years from 1934 to 1945. For there to be a new upsurge, Clawson asserts, labor must fuse with social movements concerned with race, gender, and global justice.

The new forms may create a labor movement that breaks down the boundaries between "union" and "community" or between work and family issues. Clawson finds that this is already happening in some parts of the labor movement: labor has endorsed global justice and opposed war in Iraq, student activists combat sweatshops, unions struggle for immigrant rights. Innovative campaigns of this sort, Clawson shows, create new strategies-determined by workers rather than union organizers-that redefine the very meaning of the labor movement. The Next Upsurge presents a range of examples from attempts to replace "macho" unions with more feminist models to campaigns linking labor and community issues and attempts to establish cross-border solidarity and a living wage.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Clawson reports with perceptive detail about many of the recent and ongoing campaigns . . . that he believes might give impetus to an upsurge. He believes labor alliances with other movements will expand the meaning and ambition of the labor movement."—David Moberg, In These Times, February 16, 2004

"Clawson is right in contending that the labor movement's survival, let alone revival, depends on unions transforming themselves into rank-and-file controlled, militant social as well as economic organizations that undertake community and workplace struggles. . . . One of the best features of Clawson's analysis is that he pays serious attention to globalization and resistance as a potential source of change. Perhaps the growing global justice movement, which includes some industrial unions such as the steelworkers, as well as students, feminists, and environmentalists, will help spur a new upsurge from the outside."—Stanley Aronowitz, Los Angeles Times Book Review, February 29, 2004

"Whenever those of us in the UK labour movement feel despondent, we need only look across the Atlantic to know it could be worse. . . . Clawson unravels the issue of globalization to reveal that the true enemy of the workers is not cheaper foreign labour, but national and imperialistic (through the global finance institutions) neoliberal policies of privatization, outsourcing, and deregulation. Labour needs to understand these components to devise a political strategy to oppose its true detractors. . . . Clawson's book shows that an integration of labour, students, and activists from social movements can bring results."—Andrew Fisher, Labour Left Briefing, February 2004

"Clawson argues that explosive expansions occur only when the labor movement fuses with social struggles against racism and for broader economic justice, as it did in the 1930s. . . . The Next Upsurge also argues that in order to succeed, organizing drives must empower rank-and-file workers. . . . The Next Upsurge is a must-read for all activists—in unions or otherwise—who want to see the labor movement turn around."—Peter Lamphere, Socialist Worker, February 13, 2004

"The main strength of the book is in its stories. Clawson has gathered together a range of accounts of inspiring activist struggles that go beyond the 'normal' frame of union-management battles, strikes, and so on, moments that have mobilized grassroots energy from diverse sources, uniting unions with community groups, upsetting expectations, disrupting business as usual, and (in a few cases) winning some signal victories. A number of these accounts are enriched by personal interviews."—Charles Heckscher, Rutgers University, Relations Industrielles/Industrial Relations 59:1, Winter 2004

"Clawson's book is an invaluable guide to right and wrong turns. It contains many important insights into the dynamics of labor-based movement-building—past, present, and future. It is readable, accessible, and should be studied closely by activists still seeking a favorable resolution of 'the tension/contradiction between the radical democratic potential' of organized labor and the less-inspiring reality of our existing unions."—Steve Early, The Guild Reporter, January 23, 2004

"Clawson's vision of a new labor movement infused with the dynamic strategies and broad agendas of the new social movements is not only persuasive, it is necessary if we ever want to create a decent world for those who must work for a living. A powerful book by one of labor's smartest and most enthusiastic champions."—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

"Dan Clawson doesn't tell unions and other workers' organizations what to do; he looks at what they are doing and what seems to be working best. The result is not only an exciting read, but a powerful argument for a more feminist and ethnically aware approach to organizing."—Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

"This thoughtful and bracing book examines a host of new initiatives that link labor organizing to communities, students, minorities, and women. Clawson argues that these experiments may show us the path to a new upsurge from below in which a revived labor movement would play a central role. We should all hope so, not only for the sake of a revived labor movement, but also for the sake of a revived American democracy."—Frances Fox Piven, City University of New York

"C. Wright Mills once hoped that the agenda-setting contributions of 'a brace of labor intellectuals' would help the unions move 'upstream against the main drift.' Dan Clawson is just that kind of activist-scholar, whose commitment, insight,and imaginative connectivity are all on wonderful display in The Next Upsurge. His remarkable understanding of labor history, management tactics, and social movement dynamics will advance the kind of informed debate essential to the reconstruction of the American trade unions and the fusion between those institutions and new forms of 21st-century social protest."—Nelson Lichtenstein, author of State of the Union: A Century of American Labor

"Relentlessly optimistic, yet judicious and rooted in careful research on recent developments in labor and other progressive movements, Clawson's highly readable book makes a compelling case for the potential resurgence of unionism. The Next Upsurge: Labor and the New Social Movements is a must read for anyone who cares about the future of labor and social justice."—Ruth Milkman, UCLA, Director of the UC Institute for Labor and Employment

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801441097
Publisher:
Cornell University Press
Publication date:
09/15/2003
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.20(d)

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