Learning from Each Other: A European Perspective on American Labor

Heery, Edmund
March 2001
Journal of Labor Research;Spring2001, Vol. 22 Issue 2, p307
Academic Journal
This article compares the situations of the labor movements in the U.S. and Europe as of March 2001 and discusses what lessons and techniques the two continents can learn from each other. It is argued that labor in the U.S. and the countries of Western Europe faces a common problem of decline but that the task of revitalization is rather different in each case. This difference, moreover, provides a fertile ground for borrowing and the transfer of lessons and techniques between the two continents. In the U.S. labor is handicapped by a weak institutional inheritance and needs not just to reverse decline but to create new institutions, including new forms of unionism, that will allow it to become more effective. The task is to reconfigure as well as revitalize U.S. trade unionism. European labor is itself diverse but in most countries its institutional inheritance is stronger. Labor in Europe has generally been more effective in attracting and retaining membership and has exercised broader social and political influence. Nevertheless European labor is in decline and has shown little of the dynamism and sense of movement that characterizes the new labor movement in the U.S. These different problems can provide the basis for mutual leaning.


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