What is Social Movement Unionism?

by VanessaVaile

from the archives, for Labor Day as it ought to be

Be Freedom


Sixth in the series: On Organizing

What is Social Movment Unionism?

The rarest and most politically charged form of unionism, social movement unionism is also the most difficult form of working-class rebellion to define or realize. When the borderlines between working class struggles and movements centered on race, gender, sexuality, age, and empire merge into a movement of movements — then political innovations and revolutionary changes are afoot.

Revolutions defy easy description, and we have yet to articulate a working theory.  But, if we look carefully at social movement unionism  we might begin to see the political attitudes and alliances that can help us envision what transformative change looks like in our time. The evolution of union activity: from conventional unionism, to professional unionism to public interest unionism takes us to the revolutionary threshold of social movement unionism. 

As we approach that threshold, members, leaders and staff consciously belong to a larger…

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