Thursday, 4 June 2015

Barry Eidlin on labor, power, and politics in the United States and Canada

Barry Eidlin. 2015. Class vs. Special Interest. Labor, Power, and Politics in the United States and Canada in the Twentieth Century, Politics and Society 43(2):181–211.

Abstract: Why are US labor unions so weak? Union decline has had important consequences for politics, inequality, and social policy. Common explanations cite employment shifts, public opinion, labor laws, and differences in working class culture and organization. But comparing the United States with Canada challenges those explanations. After following US unionization rates for decades, Canadian rates diverged in the 1960s, and are now nearly three times higher. This divergence was due to different processes of working class political incorporation. In the United States, labor was incorporated as an interest group into a labor regime governed by a pluralist idea. In Canada, labor was incorporated as a class representative into a labor regime governed by a class idea. This led to a relatively stronger Canadian labor regime that better held employers in check and protected workers’ collective bargaining rights. As a result,union density stabilized in Canada while plummeting in the United States.