The International Handbook of Labour Unions
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The International Handbook of Labour Unions

Responses to Neo-Liberalism

Edited by Gregor Gall, Adrian Wilkinson and Richard Hurd

Since the 1970s, the spread of neo-liberalism across the world has radically reconfigured the relationship between unions, employers and the state. The contributors highlight that this is the major cause and effect of union decline and if there is to be any union revitalisation and return to former levels of influence, then unions need to respond in appropriate political and practical ways. Written in a clear and accessible style, the Handbook examines unions’ efforts to date in many of the major economies of the world, providing foundations for understanding each country.
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Chapter 14: The Crisis of Neo-liberalism and the American Labour Movement

Richard L. Trumka


Richard L. Trumka INTRODUCTION Workers in America today face the most challenging economic conditions since the Great Depression. At the same time, as a result of the financial crisis of 2008 and the Great Recession, we also have the greatest opportunity of our generation to change the economic policies that produced this crisis, to rebalance the economy, and to build an economy that works for all. To avoid the dangers and realise the opportunities of the moment, the American labour movement must build our own power by organising millions of new members and help elect worker-friendly politicians at every level of government. But this is not enough. We must also directly challenge neo-liberalism – the economic doctrine that has dominated elite thinking in the US and much of the world for the past 35 years, that has produced a generation-long stagnation of wages, rising economic insecurity and historic levels of inequality in the US and many other countries. Neo-liberalism is the ultimate cause of the 2008 financial crisis and the Great Recession from which we are still struggling to recover. ‘Neo-liberalism’ is a term seldom used in the US, largely because of our county’s association of ‘liberal’ with the New Deal and the Great Society. Nevertheless, neo-liberalism is very familiar in much of the rest of the world. There is no little irony in the fact that we do not use this term in America, given that the US is among the most neo-liberal societies in the world and sponsors of...

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