How Do You Build a Union for the 21st Century? (Step 1: Learn From History)

Source: Sara Horowitz, Atlantic, September 3 2012

The next generation of organized labor should be about something more than recovering middle-class wages. It should be about recovering a middle-class way of life….

….Instead of focusing solely on bargaining with employers, Hillman pioneered another strategy: social unionism. In that model, his union pooled members’ dues to create businesses that would benefit the members, at a price they could afford. The union would collect dues and build social-purpose businesses like housing, banks, medical centers, and insurance companies. Each entity would rent space from union-owned office buildings. Then the union used the rent money to pay the mortgage, building real assets and collateral. The union could then borrow additional capital to start more pro-worker ventures. It was a virtuous cycle. But Hillman’s vision wasn’t just about economic power – though economics was at its heart. It was about what economic power delivered: a middle-class way of life…..

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