Twenty-five years ago, a vocal faction of progressive union leaders, labor educators, and academics charted a new path forward for American labor unions. Proponents of “social movement unionism” sought to reverse unions’ flagging strength through redoubled organizing drives, street mobilizations, “public dramas,” and labor-community coalitions. While case studies describing this repertoire of contention abound, there are few systematic analyses that take stock of emergent union strategy. Based on an analysis of 76 case studies of union-led collective-bargaining campaigns, strikes, and political mobilizations, I argue that contemporary labor union revitalization is best understood not as a singular, movement-inspired struggle but as a mix of four strategies— sometimes competing, sometimes complementary—each espousing divergent visions for how to recapture social, economic, and political power. These divergent visions, in turn, shape how unions form alliances and construct class-based identities.

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