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We Are the UnionDemocratic Unionism and Dissent at Boeing$
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Dana L. Cloud

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780252036378

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252036378.001.0001

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Business Unionism and Rank-and-File Unionism at the Turn of the Millennium

Business Unionism and Rank-and-File Unionism at the Turn of the Millennium

(p.11) 1 Business Unionism and Rank-and-File Unionism at the Turn of the Millennium
We Are the Union

Dana L. Cloud

University of Illinois Press

This chapter introduces the arguments of the book in the context of a summary of the critique of traditional American union leadership as pro-business and dangerously invested in partnerships with management. First, it chronicles the two waves of the American union movement, telling the story of the rise of democratic unionism with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and its subsequent decline in the postwar years. It then provides some examples from the 1990s and 2000s of instances in which conservative unions led workers to defeats, primarily because of the failure to prioritize rank-and-file action in favor of more administrative, legalistic, and consumer-oriented strategies. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the changing situation of labor today. It argues that that the story of the rise of the CIO provides an inspiring model of the birth of a fighting labor movement out of a period of fragmentation, exclusivity, and weakness in existing labor institutions. It further suggests that present conditions of economic crisis and the stirrings of a new militancy are ripe for a similar transformation.

Keywords:   American union leadership, labor unions, democratic unionism, Congress of Industrial Organizations, CIO, union movement

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