[Excerpt] The ideological foundations of traditional U.S. trade unionism have been called into question by world and domestic events. The post-World War II labor movement, founded on a social truce with capital and the apparent inevitability of a rising living standard, has hit a bulkhead-piercing iceberg of dramatic proportions. The global economy, economic restructuring, deregulation, and privatization have wrought destruction on U.S. unions. In the wake of this devastation, it has become common, even for union leaders, to define unionism in objectively negative terms (e.g., without a union, you have no protection from arbitrary management). As a movement, we have offered little in the way of a comprehensive explanation of what we stand for.
The upheaval has forced new questions and problems to the surface and has set the stage for an internal debate about the future. The dialogue has included little that is fundamentally new. There have always been disagreements over labor strategy and tactics, the relationship of unions to capital, and the appropriate form of organization for the labor movement. This debate has taken on new urgency since the mid-1980s, however, and has concentrated on whether there is a viable alternative to the prevailing form of business unionism, which appears to be leading workers nowhere.