COMMENT: How Corruption Destroyed the Labor Movement and Undermined America’s Promise [Robert Fitch/Bhaskar Sunkara]

ONE HAS TO ADMIRE THEIR PERSISTENCE. Labor Notes, the flagship journal of the domestic labor Left, professes itself to be “the voice of union activists who want to put the movement back into the labor movement.” Though stylistically about as riveting as the phonebook, for more than three difficult decades Labor Notes has critically observed and recorded organized labor’s endemic corruption, democratic shortcomings, and gross ineptitude in organizing workers in the private sector, where today only 7.2 percent of Americans are unionized. In a typically journalistic manner, most of these problems are blamed on the perfidy of individuals: union staffers and leaders insufficiently committed to class solidarity and grassroots participation. Similarly, the striking decline in union strength is attributed to deindustrialization and the hypermobility of global capital in the neoliberal age. What is needed, according to this standard Labor Notes narrative, is new currents within the labor movement to bring to power more dynamic actors capable of meeting the challenges of the new century. In his new book Solidarity for Sale longtime labor activist Robert Fitch begs to differ.

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