If My Brother Hurts, I Hurt: Race and Power in the American Labor Movement
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The American Labor movement has, for most of its history, been a racially exclusive group, often actively working to exclude minority individuals from its ranks. Within the last 3 decades, because of cultural shifts and decreasing union density, many unions, especially those organizing in the service sector, have moved away from this trend, instead focusing on inclusion and innovation. The author seeks to understand why unions historically chose to exclude these groups, and gain a better understanding of where the movement is headed in the future. He questions why unions worked to exclude members when so often they rely on strength through numbers, why a faction that has often backed politically progressive ideas was racially backward, and how union's actions have impacted their ability to effectively advocate for workers. The author conducted an historical survey of the Labor Movement's position on race. Utilizing Michel Foucault's idea that all power is relational, Steven Poulantzas' concept of 'class power,' and John Galbraith's theories on the types of organizational power, He argue that given the societal context, unions felt that they were better suited to 'fight capital with a relatively homogenous group of privileged workers. The author interviews union workers and officials involved in a 1996 HERE strike at Yale University in order to gain insight into the specifics of race relations during a labor dispute as well as obtain data for a period where literature on service unions is deficient (roughly the 1980s-2000). Through this data, he argues that though organized labor has historically been a bastion of white male privilege, unions working in the past two or three decades that are best suited to create power in relation to employers are those that work to generate innovative strike tactics and actively seek to organize minority groups. Pre-World War II and 'Accord Era' organizing strategies and methods are, in many ways, ineffective in modern labor relations, given the negative public opinion of unions, corporate aggression, and unfriendly governmental climate. He suggest that the Labor Movement needs to focus on inclusivity along with the development and use of novel tactics if it wants to maintain relevance and build strength in the future.