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The Origins of Solidarity Unionism

    Solidarity Unionism is a term coined (mostly) by Alice and Staughton Lynd, inspired by the IWW organizing of old that would win gains without having legal bargaining unit status with employers (collective bargaining contracts between employers and unions of workers were not legally binding in the United States prior to the National Labor Relations Act, which was signed into law in 1935).  It also owes some inspiration to the works of Martin Glaberman, C.L.R. James, and Stan Weir.

    The IWW's current advocacy of Solidarity Unionism originated in 2002 from the following article:

  • Open Source Unionism: A Proposal to American Labor - Richard B. Freeman & Joel Rogers, The Nation, June 6 2002.

The idea was then developed in large part by the efforts of then IWW General Secretary Treasurer, Alexis Buss, who called it "Minority Unionism", and wrote a column for the Industrial Worker called, "The Minority Report":

For Further Reading:

Punching Out & Other Writings - Martin Glaberman; edited & introduced by Staughton Lynd; Charles Kerr, 2002. 

Glaberman is the most important writer on labor matters in the United States during the second half of the Twentieth century. He developed distinctive concepts concerning the nature of trade unionism; the unfolding of working-class consciousness; and the forms of revolutionary organization appropriate to modern industrial society. 

The New Rank & File - Edited by Staughton Lynd and Alice Lynd, ILR Press, © 2000

[From a review by Andy Piascik] The New Rank and File is, as the Lynds say in the introduction, more a book about worker self-organization and the labor movement than it is about the union movement. The distinction is important, for the emphasis is on workers taking control of the most important aspects of their work lives.  

Solidarity Unionism: Rebuilding the Labor Movement from Below - Staughton Lynd; Charles Kerr, 1993.

[From AK Press April 3, 2006] Solidarity Unionism takes no easy comfort from faith in an assured future but rather draws strength from the fact that working people learn solidarity from their jobs and even from their defeats. It seeks neither a strategy to capture the leadership of the existing AFL-CIO unions nor one to destroy them and build upon their ruins. Instead it looks for ways that labor organizations can be structured so that they are the incubators, and not the prisons, of the impulse toward solidarity.

Democracy is Power: Rebuilding Unions from the Bottom Up - By Mike Parker and Martha Gruelle, Labor Notes, © 1999

Democracy Is Power will be engaging - often challenging - for anyone interested in labor strategy, and a vital resource for those active in reforming their own union, as a rank and file member or as a local officer. 

Class War Lessons; From Direct Action on the Job to the '46 Oakland General Strike (Unions With Leaders Who Stay on the Job) - Stan Weir; Insane Dialectical Editions, 2006.

Singlejack Solidarity - By Stan Weir; University of Minnesota, © 2004.

Blue-collar intellectual and activist publisher, Stan Weir devoted his life to the advocacy of his fellow workers. Weir was both a thoughtful observer and an active participant in many of the key struggles that shaped the labor movement and the political left in postwar America. He reported firsthand from the front lines of decisive fights over the nature of unions in the auto industry, the resistance to automation on the waterfront, and battles over racial integration in the workplace and within unions themselves.

Written throughout Weir’s decades as a blue-collar worker and labor educator, Singlejack Solidarity offers a rare look at modern life and social relations as seen from the factory, dockside, and the shop floor. This volume analyzes issues central to working-class life today, such as the human costs of automation, union policies, mass media images of work, and intergenerational relations in working-class families. It also provides humorous commentaries, historical vignettes, and moving portraits of people Weir encountered, including James Baldwin, C. L. R. James, and Eric Hoffer.

A Troublemaker's Handbook, How to Fight Back Where You Work--And Win! - Edited by Dan LaBotz, Labor Notes, 1991.

A Troublemaker's Handbook 2, How To Fight Back Where You Work and Win! -- Edited by Jane Slaughter, Labor Notes, 2004

This unique resource of organizing and leadership lessons, tactics, and strategies is a collaboration of several dozen authors and hundreds of activists. No matter how seasoned an activist you are, this book will show you new ways to fight back where you work and win!


Strategic Nonviolence

The Politics of Nonviolent Action - Gene Sharp, © 1973 by Gene Sharp, Porter Sargent.

  • Part 1 - Power and Struggle
  • Part 2 - The Methods of Nonviolent Action
  • Part 3 - The Dynamics of Nonviolent Action

[From Wikipedia April 3, 2006]: Sharp's key insight is that he revived the idea earlier stated by the 18th century philosopher David Hume, that power is not monolithic, that is, it does not derive from some intrinsic quality of those who are in power. For Sharp, political power, the power of any state - regardless of its particular structural organization - is derived from the subjects of the state. His fundamental belief is that any power structure is based on the subjects' obedience to the orders of the ruler(s). Therefore, if subjects do not obey, leaders have no power.