An Injury to All: The Decline of American Unionism (Haymarket)

An Injury to All: The Decline of American Unionism (Haymarket)

Kim Moody

Language: English

Pages: 398

ISBN: 0860919293

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Over the past decade American labor has faced a tidal wave of wage cuts, plant closures and broken strikes. In this first comprehensive history of the labor movement from Truman to Reagan, Kim Moody shows how the AFL-CIO’s conservative ideology of “business unionism” effectively disarmed unions in the face of a domestic right turn and an epochal shift to globalized production. Eschewing alliances with new social forces in favor of its old Cold War liaisons and illusory compacts with big business, the AFL-CIO under George Meany and Lane Kirkland has been forced to surrender many of its post-war gains.

With extraordinary attention to the viewpoints of rank-and-file workers, Moody chronicles the major, but largely unreported, efforts of labor’s grassroots to find its way out of the crisis. In case studies of auto, steel, meatpacking and trucking, he traces the rise of “anti-concession” movements and in other case studies describes the formidable obstacles to the “organization of the unorganized” in the service sector. A detailed analysis of the Rainbow Coalition’s potential to unite labor with other progressive groups follows, together with a pathbreaking consideration of the possibilities of a new “labor internationalism.”

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to ‘reverse the rapid decline of America’s manufacturing industries and help restore US competitiveness where it counts, in the battle for markets and jobs.’44 In this view, concessions, like protectionism or labor-management cooperation, are just one means to that end. Top union leaders do not mean by such statements that they plan to save all existing jobs. Since they share the company’s concern about being competitive, they accept that rationalizations, new technology and other labor-saving

them closed anyway.45 In 1983, the same year that it received concessions from the USW, US Steel announced plans to close one-third of its remaining steel capacity as well as various finishing and fabricating mills.46 Chrysler, of course, closed several plants as part of the bailout operation and continued closing plants after returning to profitability.47 In March 1987 Chrysler announced that it would buy AMC from Renault for $1 billion; in that same week, it also announced that it would close a

benefits and conditions out of competition. In addition, it must seek new means (and revive old ones) that can follow the path of changing corporate organization and investment as its enters new lines of production. These would include cross- or multiunion formations such as stewards’ councils, rank-and-file based coordinated bargaining, the use of corporate campaigns that mobilize workers across industrial lines to attack centers of capital, and, of course, the regularization of active

with the old-line leaders of the AFL was not over union democracy, but over industrial organization. The new organizations they built, the national CIO and the Steel Workers Organizing Committee, predecessor of the United Steelworkers, reflected their bureaucratic outlook. Most of the new CIO unions, however, were built up from the grass roots in the course of struggle. Until the war, most CIO locals and the newer national unions were highly democratic organizations – and, in the eyes of capital,

also ended the industrial union practice of stronger unions setting a standard that organized workplaces could try to achieve in their own bargaining. The Industrial Union Department of the AFL-CIO recognized the problem of dealing with merged companies and conglomerates even before the collapse of pattern bargaining. An IUD pamphlet noted that the ability of unions to bargain effectively is being threatened by the changing character of American business and industry. When these employers

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