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The Transformation of U.S. Unions: Voices, Visions, and Strategies from the Grassroots

Ray M. Tillman and Michael S. Cummings, editors
ISBN: 978-1-55587-812-2
ISBN: 978-1-55587-813-9
1999/285 pages/LC: 98-45923
Transformations in Politics and Society

"A useful and accessible book for anyone interested in the current state of and future prospects for US labor. Recommended for public, academic, and professional libraries."—Choice

"This is a wonderful book for anyone interested in understanding the current dynamics of the labor movement."—Mike Rhodes, Labor/Community Alliance

"The contributors to Transformation have, for the most part, been active participants in union cleanup efforts.... They believe there's a crucial link between union strength and internal democracy...and that organized labor's failure to permit a greater rank-and-file role in decisionmaking will prevent it from becoming an instrument of fundamental social change."—The Nation

"This volume pulls together ideas from some of the finest critics/activists within labor. It is a refreshing collection that includes not only the old standards, but some new voices.… Good, clear, narratives packed full of lessons and information for the experienced activist, the scholar, or the student trying to learn more about unions and rank-and-file movements and reform."—Elaine Bernard


What's wrong with U.S. unions, and what could make it right? These are the questions addressed by eighteen partisans—union dissidents and noted scholars—of union democracy. Agreeing that any long-term solutions must come from the grassroots of the union movement, they argue for expansion rather than contraction, militancy rather than accommodation, and internal democracy rather than oligarchy. To break the stranglehold of business, union, and government elites, they emphasize, ordinary workers must be energetically recruited and actively involved in the management of their unions.


Ray M. Tillman is president of the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 642. Michael S. Cummings is professor political science and President's Teaching Scholar at the University of Colorado, Denver.


  • Introduction—M. Cummings and R. Tillman.
  • A Rising Tide of Union Democracy—H. Benson.
  • The New AFL-CIO: No Salvation from on High for the Working Stiff—J. Slaughter.
  • Labor: Turning the Corner Will Take More Than Mobilization—M. Eisensher.
  • Learning From the Past to Build the Future—P. Rachleff.
  • The Dynamics of Change—K. Moody.
  • Rank and File Organizers—P. Downs.
  • National Reform: Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) and the UAW New Directions Movement (NDM)—R. Tillman.
  • Hell on Wheels: Organizing Among New York's City's Subway and Bus Workers—S. Downs and T. Schermerhorn.
  • The Local Union: A Rediscovered Frontier—S. Lynd.
  • Restructuring Labor's Identity: The Justice for Janitors Campaign in Washington, D.C.—J. Williams.
  • Lessons from the UMWA—A. Zajickek and B. Nash, Jr..
  • The U.S. Labor Movement in the Era of Globalization—B. Nissen.
  • A Strategic Organizing Alliance: Across Borders—R. Alexander and P. Gilmore.
  • A "New Labor Movement" in the Shell of the Old?—J. Brecher and T. Costello.
  • Conclusion: Union Democracy and Social Unionism—R. Tillman and M. Cummings.