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Young unionists in Milwaukee study book Class Struggle Unionism

By staff |
May 7, 2022
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Milwaukee, WI - Young labor activists in Wisconsin are reading the new book Class Struggle Unionism by veteran labor activist Joe Burns. Two dozen members of the Young Workers Committee (YWC) of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council have been meeting every month to study chapters of the book, which presents the case for a class-struggle based approach to unionism, where democratic, member-led unions vie for more than just better wages and working conditions but for greater control over their workplaces.

In the book, Burns argues that the "business unionism" ideology of class-collaboration with employers and the service-oriented model that has been embraced by most labor officials for the past several decades has led labor to a historical low point and does not have the answers to successfully lead a new upsurge. He further states that a relatively recent phenomenon – something he terms “labor liberalism” – presents another dead end for labor activists seeking a more militant, member-centered trade union movement. “Labor liberalism,” as Burns writes about it, places an emphasis on staff-driven efforts which often place union energy, funds, and resources into struggles beyond the shop floor.

There are positive signs on the horizon. Like young workers across the country, YWC members have participated in new union organizing, and witnessed growing interest in the militant, class struggle tactics like strikes that made big gains for the labor movement in the past. With the wave of union activity in the coffee sector, museums, education, and the recent victory for 8000 Amazon workers in New York, there are thousands of new unionists entering the movement eager to learn and lead.

The goal of the Young Workers Committee is to provide young unionists with the practical skills and strategy they can use in their workplaces and union locals to lead winning campaigns, and lead a revival of the labor movement and working-class political power.

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