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In this era of increased assaults on working people in general and organized labor in particular,Building Global Labor Solidarity in a Time of Accelerating Globalization is an important and timely antidote to the corporate elite, mass media, and political propaganda directed against unions and the working class.

Understanding Labor Struggles

Understanding Labor Struggles—John Marciano

Edited with a fine and powerful introduction by Kim Scipes, long-time unionist and sociologist at Purdue University, Building (Haymarket Books, 2016) forms the foundation and context for a series of case-study essays by union and working class activists and intellectuals that focus on labor struggles from Canada, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Mexico, and Latin America.

Scipes’s Introduction and his chapter on “Theorizing Global Labor Solidarity” are critical to understanding the concrete labor struggles around the world that are discussed in the volume; his essays are the foundation upon which the other fine case studies rest. Although he correctly targets the corporate capitalist elite as primarily responsible for the oppression of working people, he does not shy away from a tough critique of the enabling role played by US labor unions, especially their leadership.

Building Global Labor Solidarity in a Time of Accelerating Globalization is an important and timely antidote to the corporate elite, mass media, and political propaganda directed against unions and the working class.

Drawing upon his excellent historical and sociological analysis of the role of the US AFL-CIO in supporting Washington’s militaristic foreign policies (AFL-CIO’s Secret War Against Developing Country Workers, Lexington Books 2010), he rightly condemns leaders such as George Meany and Lane Kirkland who were on board with various US administrations and the Central Intelligence Agency in overthrowing democratically-elected governments around the world.

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Scipes’s chapter is ably complemented by labor economist Michael Zweig’s closing chapter, “Working for Global Justice in the New US Labor Movement.” Zweig, a public intellectual and union activist who represents his SUNY United University Professions union on the national steering committee of US Labor Against the War (USLAW, and national convener of that group), also delivers a stinging critique of the AFL-CIO’s role on behalf of US militarism around the world. But he highlights as well the recent challenges to that dominant view among rank and file US labor, discussing some of the important and positive contributions of labor activists in reversing the profoundly reactionary policies of the Meany-Kirkland years.

This is an important work that should be in the hands of scholars, unionists, and working-class activists—a vital handbook that lays out a sharp history of labor struggles and presents an analysis of concrete efforts underway to promote and sustain a decent and peaceful world.

john marciano

John Marciano