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Organizing Power: The Prospects for an American Labor Movement

  • Margaret Levi (a1)

A comparative perspective on labor unions reveals that the best of all worlds for the workers is coordinated bargaining at thenational level and significant rank-and-file engagement at the local level. But the achievement of national and coordinated bargaining is an unrealistic goal in the foreseeable future in the United States. What American labor can do, however, is to become once again a social movement. In order for organized labor to play its critical role as a countervailing power within the American political system, there must be intensified organizing, internal democratization, increased electoral and lobbying clout, and social-movement unions willing to mobilize with others and, if necessary, on the streets.This paper was originally prepared for presentation at Theme Panel 7, “Politics of Labor,” at the 2002 meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA) in Boston. The commentators at APSA—Glenn Adler, Ron Blackwell, Sakhela Buhlungu, and Linda Kaboolian —gave me generous and insightful feedback. So did Frances Fox Piven, Robby Stern, Victoria Murillo, Katrina Pflaumer, George Lovell, Jennifer Hochschild, Bernhard Ebbinghaus, Wolfgang Streeck, Fritz Scharpf, Bruce Ackerman, and four anonymous reviewers. I particularly want to thank my two most trusty critical readers: John Ahlquist, my research assistant, and David Olson, my long-term colleague and collaborator. I did not always take their advice but always appreciated it.Previous books include Of Rule and Revenue; Consent, Dissent, and Patriotism; and the co-authored Analytic Narratives

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