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Special Issue of Labor Studies Journal

In conjunction with the 2017 United Association for Labor Education Annual Conference

April 5-8, 2017

Detroit, Michigan

As traditional unions and the collective bargaining regime that underlay them have continued to decline in size and power for decades, new organizations and movements have emerged to protect the interests of the working class and vulnerable populations.  Often referred to as “Alt Labor,” the new institutions and movements often take the form of workers centers, immigrant community-based workers organizations, labor-community coalition groups and movements, faith-based worker rights organizations, worker-based racial civil rights organizations, and the like.

These organizations and movements have won a series of political victories that have raised the legal minimum standards (pay, treatment, etc.) for various types of vulnerable and marginalized workers. Meanwhile, traditional unions have protected the interests and livelihoods of their members and exerted more conventional political power bases, as well as sometimes supporting and financing alternative formations.  

Enthusiasts for new Alt Labor organizations are sometimes dismissive of conventional unions and collective bargaining as dinosaurs from the past bound for extinction.  They criticize the perceived conservatism, narrowness, legal constraints, bureaucratic nature, and undemocratic internal processes of conventional unions.  Defenders of conventional unions sometimes in turn deride the resource dependent (upon private foundations and governmental sources), unstable, sometimes temporary, and politically-dependent-but-market-powerless nature of the Alt Labor groups.  Other observers have seen strengths in both models and have attempted to determine how the two can best work together for maximum impact.

This call for papers seeks papers examining the strengths and weaknesses of both models, case studies of each type of organization, comparative analyses, and analytical insights into the interactions between the two types of organizations and movements. All papers with a focus on the two types of labor movements are welcome. We are also interested in papers that present case studies on where unions and Alt Labor groups have built alliances. 

Interested authors should submit an abstract of 500 words, along with full contact information to Professor Steven K. Ashby at [email protected].  Any questions about the submission should be directed to.  Proposals should be submitted by October 31, 2016. Abstracts will be reviewed by the editor. Acceptance of proposals is conditional upon authors presenting their papers at the 2017 UALE Conference. Only papers accepted for presentation at the 2017 Conference will be eligible to be submitted to a peer reviewed process for possible publication in a LSJ-UALE Special Conference Issue.

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