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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.Read more
- 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
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." DispatcherSee more reviews
"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
"...an 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
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- 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
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