America’s New Labor Movement

Source: Sarah Green, HBR Blog Network, August 29, 2014

Flip through issues of Harvard Business Review from the 1950s or 1960s, and you’ll see a steady drumbeat of articles on labor relations. But search Google today, and our top hit on unions is from 20 years ago — John Hoerr’s still-interesting “What Should Unions Do?“

America’s public sector has also found new issues to focus on – as Roger Martin has persuasively argued, Democrats now care about the interests of shareholders and investors, and Republicans about top-tier talent.

So I called up Lowell Turner, professor of International and Comparative Labor and Director of the Worker Institute at Cornell, to ask him how labor might adapt to regain its influence. What I learned was that the labor movement in the United States is already adapting — though those changes still fly below the national radar. Through strategic alliances and city- and state-level initiatives, America’s labor movement is already being reborn.

What follows is an edited version of our conversation….