Global liberalization is driving a 'logic of participation', for firms and unions alike. Economic pressures drive managers to innovate across a range of possibilities, from outsourcing and union busting to work reorganization and labor-management partnership. Those same pressures, reflected largely through the strategic choices of employers, also force unions to innovate – from concession bargaining and cooperation to coalition building and international solidarity. Because employers are increasingly tempted by strategies that seek to weaken or marginalize unions, sustained participation for unions arguably requires a new period of activist mobilization.
This article explores one significant component of renewed labor mobilization: union coalition building. Based on a case study of coalition efforts in the United States between the United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club from 1999-2004, concepts and causal linkages are suggested for broader analysis. Research findings presented here indicate the following causal processes at work: union strategies, defining moments and spillover combine to drive coalition building processes that include events, campaigns and institution building - ranging from local to national and global levels. Beyond this US-based case, a framework for cross-national comparative analysis is also suggested.