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[Excerpt] In the United States, the renewed energy displayed by the labor movement is particularly promising. From organizing drives to strike victories to legislative campaigns, labor's renewed influence in the American political economy is clearly seen. A labor movement that was left for dead by many in the Reagan era has developed new leadership and innovative strategies for rank-and-file mobilization and political clout. In a global economy dominated to a large extent by American-based multinational corporations, the world needs a strong American labor movement. The goal of the new activists, young and old, who drive today's labor campaigns, is the rebirth of modernized, mobilized, powerful American unions.

We suggest that innovations at the heart of the current revitalization are part of a broad shift away from traditional postwar unionism to a new social movement unionism. The transformation occurs in a weak institutional context in which experimentation and innovation are possible. Driving the change are two generations of activists: veterans of the social movements of the 1960s, now in leadership positions at the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and in many member unions, and a new generation of campus and workplace activists.


Suggested Citation
Turner, L. & Hurd, R. W. (2001). Building social movement unionism: The transformation of the American labor movement [Electronic version]. In L. Turner, H. C. Katz & R. W. Hurd (Eds.), Rekindling the movement: Labor’s quest for relevance in the twenty-first century (pp. 9-26). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press

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Reprinted with permission of the publisher.