NLF Highlights

Independent Unions: The Allure of a Failing Strategy

NLF Highlights for May

“There is something going on today,” writes Erik Loomis, reflecting on the stirring of interest in independent unions. Young people are showing a keenness to be involved in matters of justice at the workplace and beyond. And the interest within the labor movement generated by a streak of wins at Amazon, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s and others, has been matched by coverage in the mainstream media, something which has not happened in decades. Are we seeing the rebirth of independent unionism in a meaningful way?

Not so fast, says Loomis, in his article in the spring issue of New Labor Forum, “Independent Unions: The Allure of a Failing Strategy”. History should be our teacher, he suggests, noting that the last century provides many a moment in organizing like the one we are seeing today. However, none of them lasted. Why not? What does it mean for today’s independent organizing? What could actually work today and what is likely not to? In addressing these questions, he pointedly observes that the allure of these recent organizing victories is an indication of the failure of the union movement to deliver on the promise of mass organizing. You can hear Erik speak at length on this subject with Joshua Freeman in our podcast episode entitled, “Independent Unions: The Allure of a Failing Strategy.” Support the ongoing work of the journal and read the new issue in its entirety by subscribing today at

Table of Contents
    1. Independent Unions: The Allure of a Failing Strategy – Erik Loomis, New Labor Forum
    2. Reinventing Solidarity Episode 42 – “Independent Unions: The Allure of a Failing Strategy
    3. How Workers Win: Rebuilding Labor’s Power for the 21st Century” – Friday, May 5, 2023 * 9:30am – 5:00pm E.T.

Independent Unions: The Allure of a Failing Strategy
by Erik Loomis, New Labor Forum
In the aftermath of the remarkable and unprecedented victory of the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) at a Staten Island facility on April 1, 2022, nearly the entire conversation around the American labor movement changed overnight. The ALU had defeated Amazon, one of the megaliths of the modern economy, in a union vote. No one had ever beaten Amazon. For that matter, almost no successful campaigns against any of the iconic companies of the twenty-first-century economy—Target, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Uber, Walmart, or others—had succeeded . . .
Read the full article here

This episode offers a provocative assessment of independent unionism as a strategy for building worker power in the U.S. In conversation with New Labor Forum Consulting Editor Joshua Freeman, Erik Loomis discusses his spring 2023 article for the journal, titled Independent Unions: The Allure of a Failing Strategy. Chronicling the besieged, ill-fated experimentation with independent unionism since the late 1800s, Loomis elucidates his doubts about the prospects for this strategy against today’s corporate behemoths.


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