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What Has Happened to the U.S. Labor Movement? Union Decline and Renewal
Annual Review of Sociology (1999)
  • Dan Clawson, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
  • Mary Ann Clawson

For many years, US trade unions declined in union density, organizing capacity, level of strike activity, and political effectiveness. Labor’s decline is variously attributed to demographic factors, inaction by unions themselves, the state and legal system, globalization, neoliberalism, and the employer offensive that ended a labor-capital accord. The AFL-CIO New Voice leadership elected in 1995, headed by John Sweeney, seeks to reverse these trends and transform the labor movement. Innovative organizing, emphasizing the use of rank-and-file intensive tactics, substantially increases union success; variants include union building, immigrant organizing, feminist approaches, and industry-wide non-National Labor Relations Board (or nonboard) organizing. The labor movement must also deal with participatory management or employee involvement programs, while experimenting with new forms, including occupational unionism, community organizing, and strengthened alliances with other social movements.

  • trade unions,
  • labor organizing,
  • AFL-CIO,
  • employer anti-union offensive,
  • labor movement future
Publication Date
Publisher Statement
Copyright © 1999 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved
Citation Information
Dan Clawson and Mary Ann Clawson. "What Has Happened to the U.S. Labor Movement? Union Decline and Renewal" Annual Review of Sociology Vol. 25 (1999)
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