A New American Labor Movement

The Decline of Collective Bargaining and the Rise of Direct Action

By William E. Scheuerman

Subjects: American Labor History, Sociology Of Work, Public Policy, Political Economy, Politics
Hardcover : 9781438485492, 276 pages, October 2021
Paperback : 9781438485485, 276 pages, July 2022

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Table of contents



1. Why Unions Matter

2. The Long Slide

3. Farmworkers Fight Back

4. Worker Centers in Focus

5. Freelancers Union: Backward to the Future?

6. Taking to the Streets

7. All Roads Lead to . . . Sectoral Bargaining?


Describes how new kinds of direct-action labor movements are emerging to reshape American labor activism in the twenty-first century.


The American labor movement isn't dead. It's just moving from the bargaining table to the streets. In A New American Labor Movement, William Scheuerman analyzes how the decline of unions and the emergence of these new direct-action movements are reshaping the American labor movement. Tens of thousands of exploited workers—from farm laborers and gig drivers to freelance artists and restaurant workers—have taken to the streets in a collective attempt to attain a living wage and decent working conditions, with or without the help of unions. This new worker militancy, expressed through mass demonstrations, strikes, sit-ins, political action, and similar activities, has already achieved much success and offers models for workers to exercise their power in the twenty-first century. Finally, Scheuerman notes, many of the strategies of the new direct-action groups share features with the sectoral bargaining model that dominates the European labor movement, suggesting that sectoral bargaining may become the foundation of a new American labor movement.

William E. Scheuerman is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the State University of New York at Oswego. Prior to retiring as President of the National Labor College, he served as President of the United University Professions, the faculty and staff union at SUNY. He is currently Treasurer of the American Labor Studies Center. Scheuerman has authored several books, including United University Professions: Pioneering in Higher Education Unionism (with Nuala McGann Drescher and Ivan D. Steen), also published by SUNY Press.


"Scheuerman writes with authority: as professor emeritus of political science at the State University of New York at Oswego and as a former president of the National Labor College and president of the faculty and staff union at SUNY." — Dollars & Sense

"…William Scheuerman argues in this new, groundbreaking book, U.S. unions are in deep trouble … his creative, thoughtful, and well-researched study of the U.S. labor movement gets to the heart of its major problems and potential. In this time of growing corporate domination of the United States and of the world, A New American Labor Movement illuminates a useful path forward in the long and difficult struggle for workers' rights." — Daily Kos