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In the first episode of a new series, we dig into the primary causes of the ongoing decline of union membership in the US, especially in private industry. While there are certainly spots of hope in movements like Starbucks Workers United and other grassroots union organizing drives, US labor union density has continued its long 40 year decline. If we want to rebuild the US labor movement as a fighting movement of the working class, we must understand the root causes of the precarious situation we are in today. In this episode, we look at some of the foundational issues behind the problems of the US labor movement, like the class collaborationist approach of “business unionism”, the refusal of major unions to address “controversial issues” like racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression, and an abandonment of the struggle for control of the shop floor. In future episodes, we will look at some of the key moments in the failures of business unionism from the height of raw union membership numbers in the 70s, through the losses of the Reagan era, to the long steady retreats of the Neoliberal 90s to today.
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