Is Labor Dead?

Source: Gerald Friedman, International Labor and Working-Class History, Volume 75 Issue 01, March 2009
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From the abstract:
The Labor Movement has entered a crisis. Declining support for unions and for socialist political movements reflects the exhaustion of a reformist growth strategy where capitalists and state officials accepted unions in exchange for labor peace. While winning real gains for workers, this strategy undermined labor and its broader democratic aspirations by establishing unions and union and party leaders as authorities over the workers themselves. In the upheavals of the late-1960s and the 1970s, dissident movements, directed as much against reformist leaders as against employers and state officials, pushed protest beyond traditional limits toward demands for popular empowerment and democracy. Union decline began then, not because workers had lost interest in collective action but because employers and state officials abandoned collective bargaining to find alternative means of controlling unrest. Capitalism entered a new post-union era, when national leaders like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan used policies of open trade and capital flows and high unemployment to discipline labor. Abandoned by their capitalist bargaining partners, reformist unions and political parties have withered. Now, without social space for reformist movements, the labor movement can only advance by openly avowing its original goals of popular empowerment and the establishment of economic democracy.

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