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A.1. Campaigns by Workers

Volume Two -> A. Campaigns for Social and Economic Justice -> A.1. Campaigns by Workers


The move towards a global neoliberal economy from the 1970s has created new problems for trade unions. One logical response has been to try to maintain and extend international solidarity between unions (though sometimes national economic interests may be in conflict) and to extend transnational cooperation between trade unions and social movements. A second important response has been to focus on creating local solidarity: in the move towards ‘community unionism’ workers have cooperated with local civil society groups, and often other unions, to support activism by a vulnerable workforce. For analyses of both responses see:

The New Faces of the Unions, Red Pepper, 2018, pp. 14-34

Analysis of the new small unions that are mobilizing workers not previously organized, such as domestic workers (often migrants), and older unions extending their reach to cover young workers in fast food chains, delivering food or driving for Uber. The contributors discuss what is distinctive about the style of the unionism - for example its decentralised leadership and willingness to en gage in occupations, and its support from other campaigning groups. The focus is on the UK but within a context of  global solidarity with similar campaigns. There is also a timeline from 2008 to 2018 highlighting key struggles including by the long established major unions.  

Uber Drivers of the World, Unite, New Internationalist, 09/04/2019,

This article, drawing on material from the online socialist publication Notes from Below, focuses on the increasing reliance of capitalism today, with the growth of internet retail and the 'gig' economy, on transnational supply chains, and migrant workers. It starts by noting the disruptive effects of the French 'Yellow Vests' demonstrations blocking roundabouts on such chains. It also comments on how Italian grass roots unions Si Cobas and ADL have since 2008 used strikes and blockades to target the chain of distribution centres., leading  to the arrest of the national coordinator of Si Cobas in 2017, and how workers in Amazon distribution centres in Italy, Spain and Germany have coordinated strike action. Concludes by noting how Uber drivers, mostly migrants, communicating via mobile phones have coordinated resistance. (See 'The wave of worker resistance in European food platforms 2016-7', Notes from Below, Jan 2018, 

Banks, Andy, The Power and Promise of Community Unionism, Labor Research Review, Vol. 1, issue 18, 1991, pp. -17

Discusses the ‘Justice for Janitors’ campaign in Los Angeles from 1986-1990 and success in reaching out to the immigrant community.

Bieler, Andreas ; Lindberg, Ingemar, Global Restructuring, Labour and the Challenges for Transnational Solidarity, London, Routledge, 2011, pp. 280

A range of transnational case studies, including cooperation between unions in developing and developed countries, illustrate problems and possibilities of solidarity.

Fine, Janice, Community Unions and the Revival of the American Labor Movement, Politics and Society, Vol. 33, issue 1, 2005, pp. 153-199

Giagnoni, Silvia, Creating a Beacon of Hope for All Workers, Peace News, 2017, pp. 8-10

Examines how the Coalition of  Immokalee Workers (CIW) in a Florida town provide a model of how to achieve greater justice for migrant workers in agriculture. when combating major retail corporations and in the context of exploitation and sometimes modern slavery, which CIW exposed. CIW workers are not only paid better as a result of their campaign, but the Fair Food Standards Council they promoted regularly checks working conditions and hold farmers to account. They have also prompted the Fair Food Program which growers join, and enlisted support from across US society - including a range of religious groups, artists and musicians, as well as food writers. The movement is committed to nonviolent protest on the model of the Civil Rights movement.

Greenwood, Ian ; McBride, Jo, Community Unionism: A Comparative Analysis of Concepts and Contexts, Basingstoke, Palgrave/Macmillan, 2009, pp. 264

Explores the diverse meanings of community unionism, provides case studies from the UK – the ‘London’s living wage’ campaign, and activism by black and minority workers and migrant workers – and from Japan, Australia and the US.

Woods, Alex, Winning at Walmart, Red Pepper, 2013, pp. 45-47

On the campaign by OUR Walmart against the retail giant in USA in 2012, when non-unionized workers mobilized across the country with support from local communities, using blockades as well as brief strikes.