Social unionism and the framing of ‘fairness’ in the Wisconsin uprising

Source: Graeme Chesters, Local Economy, Vol. 31 no. 4, June 2016

From the abstract:
The concept of ‘fairness’ has been used to frame political struggles by politicians and activists across the political spectrum. This article looks at its use in the US State of Wisconsin during the ‘Uprising’ – a series of occupations, protests, recall elections and militant direct action that began in 2011. These events were a response to a ‘budget repair bill’ that sought to strip public sector union members of their collective bargaining rights and to apply severe austerity measures within the State. This article suggests that although ‘fairness’ has a certain broad-based and intuitive appeal, its mutability means that it is unlikely to be successful in framing a structural critique that can build and sustain social action. Instead, it argues that framing this conflict as an uprising suggested a more explicit form of resistance that enabled a wider mobilization, and this can best be understood as an example of social (movement) unionism – the extension of traditional work place rights approaches to include broader agendas of social justice, civil rights, immigrant rights and economic justice for non-unionized workers.