[Excerpt] The reawakening of the American labor movement under new leadership with new strategic orientations is a remarkable chapter in late 20thcentury American economic and political history. Given up for dead by so many at home and abroad, under relentless attack from American employers and with government supports disappearing, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFLCIO) and a core of key member unions have re-emerged since the mid-1990s as prominent workplace, community and political actors. With both strategic reorientation and new local mobilization, these unions have fought to reverse decline and re-energize the movement. While the new efforts have not yet yielded enduring membership or national legislative gains, American unions have repositioned themselves for a potential organizing renaissance.
While domestic in substance, this is an important international story. The long decline of the American labor movement neutralized a central locus of opposition to the rise of market fundamentalism, deregulation and unfettered free trade in a US-dominated global economy. Even the strongest unions, in northern Europe, for example, have come under growing pressure from policies of fiscal and monetary austerity. Prospects for the revival of the American labor movement are thus a matter of global significance.