Skip to content

All SAP systems will be unavailable on Saturday 10th December 2022 from 0800-1800 UK Time.

If you can’t place an order, please contact Customer Services to complete your order.

UK/ROW +44 (0) 1223 326050 | US 1 800 872 7423 or 1 212 337 5000 | Australia/New Zealand 61 3 86711400 or 1800 005 210, New Zealand 0800 023 520

Register Sign in Wishlist
The Union Makes Us Strong

The Union Makes Us Strong
Radical Unionism on the San Francisco Waterfront

$29.99 (G)

  • Date Published: August 1997
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521629683

$ 29.99 (G)

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Hardback, eBook

Looking for an examination copy?

This title is not currently available for examination. However, if you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • This book challenges the notion that American labor history is a history of defeated militant unionism. Focusing on the routine work practices and political culture of San Francisco's longshore union, it argues that collective bargaining does not eliminate contests over shopfloor control. The collectively bargained contract is shown to be a bargain that reflects and reproduces fundamental disagreement between management and labor. It creates the parameters within which production and conflict proceed.

    • Interesting examination of a vital area of US labour history
    • Challenges the conventional notion that American labour history is a history of defeated militant unionism
    • Based on three years of ethnographic research
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    "A sociologist blends history, interviews, and analysis into the best description and appraisal yet written about the strengths, traditions and problems of the ILWU on the waterfront since the 1930s." Dispatcher

    "Wellman's provocative thesis and highly imaginative analysis...offer new models for the assessment of the history and present practice of all CIO unions." Michigan Historical Review

    "...the best book written about what it has meant to be a longshore worker in the International Longshoremen's & Warehousemen's Union over the past fifty years." Labor Studies Journal

    "Wellman's evidence and conclusions have broad significance." Industrial and Labor Relations Review

    "His insights into worker behavior and workplace culture should cause us to rethink many of our assumptions about both union practices and labor-management relations." Contemporary Sociology

    " engaging ethnographic portrait....readers will appreciate this rare and vivid glimpse into the culture, language, and routines of longshoremen." Choice

    "To put it simply, this is the best book yet written about what it has meant to be a longshore worker in the ILWU over the past fifty years." Eugene Dennis Vrana, The Dispatcher

    "...Wellman concludes that waterfront trade unionism is alive and well. Moreover, he offers insights into the character of the American worker and the dynamics of the workplace and suggests that this country's service sector is poised for a surge of union organizing." Jennifer McNulty, Currents

    "...The Union Makes Us Strong provides an important model--and benchmark--for all future labor studies....Anyone concerned about the American labor movement will find much of interest in this often fascinating, and surprisingly lively, read." Geoffrey Dunn, San Jose Metro

    "Wellman writes in a clear and concise style and his descriptions of the union hall meetings and workplace culture are a joy to read. The author is sensitive to the language and physical communication among the longshoremen, and whenever possible he allows the workers to speak for themselves. He also offers some rare and detailed insights into the present-day conflicts of the maritime industry and everyday class struggle in the workplace." John F. Lyons, Science & Society

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: August 1997
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521629683
    • length: 388 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 26 mm
    • weight: 0.525kg
    • contains: 8 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Notes on unpublished sources
    Part I. Labour Radicalism Revisited:
    1. Unsettling old scores: labour radicalism encounters conventional wisdom
    2. Sealing the fate of radical labour theoretically
    3. A framework for American unionism
    Part II. Local Community and 'Tumultuous' Democracy: the Socio-Cultural Foundations of Unionism on the San Francisco Waterfront:
    4. Political community on the San Francisco waterfront
    5. The structure of participationist politics
    6. Being political in Local 10
    Part III. Unionism, Work and Technological Change:
    7. Work, knowledge and control: conventional longshoring
    8. Work, knowledge and control: containerised longshoring
    9. 'Doing the right thing': working principles and codes of conduct
    Part IV. Waging the Battle for Workplace Control on Contractual Terrain:
    10. Who decides how to work?
    11. Which side's language shall govern?
    12. By whose principles will merit be rewarded?
    Part V. Agreeing to Disagree: Being Defensibly Disobedient:
    13. Translating troubles into grievable issues
    14. 'We essentially have no contract with you': keeping the agreement
    15. Constructing and maintaining the appearance of co-operation
    Conclusion: Trade union exceptionalism or prefigurative politics?
    Appendix: doing field research - an ethnographic account
    Name index
    Subject index.

  • Author

    David Wellman, University of California, Santa Cruz

also by this author

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×
warning icon

Turn stock notifications on?

You must be signed in to your Cambridge account to turn product stock notifications on or off.

Sign in Create a Cambridge account arrow icon

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.