The Politics of the Labor Movement Revitalization: The Need for a Revitalized Perspective

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[Excerpt] Unions everywhere are struggling. Globalization, with its supporting neo-liberal ideology, encourages employers and governments to push vigorously against the constraints of employment regulation. Unions have to fight to protect past gains, resist decline and find new allies. To some extent, labor is always on the defensive in a capitalist economy, where ownership and economic decision-making lie largely beyond the reach of workers and unions. Yet the competitive pressures of today's increasingly global capitalism accentuate the pressure. Firms have new options and increasing mobility, far beyond those that most workers and unions can claim. One response is common to all of our country cases, despite other differences. Unions are everywhere re-launching themselves as 'political subjects', as actors engaged not just in collective bargaining and workplace regulation, but also in the broader aggregation of political and social interests (Pizzorno, 1978). Labor movement politics today go well beyond traditional links with lab our-friendly parties and negotiations with governments, to involve grass-roots politics and local campaigns. The exact forms taken by such political strategies are shaped differently in each country according to the challenges faced, existing institutions and opportunity structures. But in all cases, the shift toward a fuller political subject orientation lies at the center of contemporary strategic adaptation and revitalization.

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labor movement; industrial relations; reform; revitalization; labor unions; globalization
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Required Publisher Statement: © SAGE Publications. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.Final version published as Baccaro, L., Haman, K., & Turner, L. (2003). The politics of labour movement revitalization: The need for a revitalized perspective. European Journal of Industrial Relations, 9(1), 119-133.
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