Contesting the Dinosaur Image: The Labor Movement’s Search for a Future
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Hurd, Richard W.
[Excerpt] But the increased effectiveness of labor's political activities has not resulted in major improvements legislatively, and now there is a hostile President who opposes nearly every aspect of the union policy agenda. The promise for the future lies in the demonstrated ability to mobilize at the grassroots. But there are recent signs that national unions are breaking ranks and pursuing narrow self interest. The USWA joined with the steel industry to persuade the Bush administration to restrict imports, and even hinted at a possible endorsement for his reelection in 2004 (Murray). The UMWA has praised the president's energy policy, particularly his promotion of increased coal production. Other unions have reached comparable accommodations, but these two unions are particularly noteworthy because they have been strong supporters of John Sweeney. Tie to these political defections the departure from the AFL-CIO of the Carpenters union in March 2001, and it appears that labor is moving dangerously towards fragmentation. On the other hand there are definite signs of strength in the political and organizing arenas, and unionization in the public sector remains strong with density over 38%. The story of labor's efforts at renewal is clearly unfinished. The dinosaur has been more active in the Sweeney era, but membership overall continues to dwindle and there are indications of trouble on the horizon. The struggle continues, and in spite of growing skepticism, extinction is not inevitable.
labor movement; organizing; union; worker rights; unionization; politics
Required Publisher Statement: Reprinted with permission of South African Sociological Association. Final version published as Hurd, R. W. (2002). Contesting the dinosaur image: The labor movement’s search for a future. Society in transition, 33(2), 227-240.