Solidarity unionism

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Solidarity unionism is a model of labor organizing in which the workers themselves formulate strategy and take action against the company directly without mediation from government or paid union representatives.[1] The term originated in a 1978 book Labor Law for the Rank and Filer by Staughton Lynd who described a model of organizing promoted in the early 20th century by the Industrial Workers of the World which eschews the formality and bureaucracy of government-recognized unions, which Lynd and co-author Daniel Gross refer to as "business unions."[1]

Supporters feel that enabling a union which does not need to win support from a majority of workers makes it easier to organize and gain workplace improvements.[1] This model was tried in the early 2000's by the IWW to organize Starbucks unions in the United States.[1][2][3][4]


  1. ^ a b c d Scheiber, Noam (2019-10-10). "The Radical Guidebook Embraced by Google Workers and Uber Drivers - A book based on ideas associated with a labor group from the early 20th century has provided a blueprint for organizing without a formal union". New York Times. But more broadly, the book serves as a polemic contrasting mainstream "business unions" with what the Wobblies refer to as "solidarity unions" — that is, worker-led groups that are not typically certified as exclusive bargaining agents under federal law and therefore don't need to win majority support to exist. The business union "is controlled from the top down by officers and staff (usually white males) who are not regularly employed at the workplace," Mr. Lynd and Mr. Gross write. They complain that a business union is preoccupied with achieving a bargaining agreement that requires workers to give up the right to strike and any say in the company's major decisions.
  2. ^ Indymedia Milwaukee | Starbucks Targeted in 20 Cities 4 Countries by IWW Archived 2012-08-02 at
  3. ^ "Solidarity Unionism". Industrial Workers of the World. Retrieved 2023-05-15.
  4. ^ "The Origins of Solidarity Unionism". Industrial Workers of the World. Retrieved 2023-05-15. 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.

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