Breaking the Iron Law of Oligarchy: Union Revitalization in the American Labor Movement1

  title={Breaking the Iron Law of Oligarchy: Union Revitalization in the American Labor Movement1},
  author={Kim Voss and Rachel Sherman},
  journal={American Journal of Sociology},
  pages={303 - 349}
This article addresses the question of how social movement organizations are able to break out of bureaucratic conservatism. In‐depth interviews with union organizers and other data are used to identify the sources of radical transformation in labor organizations by comparing local unions that have substantially altered their goals and tactics with those that have changed little. This analysis highlights three factors: the occurrence of a political crisis in the local leading to new leadership… Expand
Reviving the American Labour Movement: Institutions and Mobilization
The current revitalization of the American labour movement is driven primarily by two forces: from above, new strategic leadership in some unions and at the American Federation of Labor and CongressExpand
Mapping the Dimensions of Labor Revitalization: Movement Innovators Survey the California Frontier
Abstract In light of the ongoing dialogue regarding the possibility and potential for revitalizing the U.S. labor movement, this paper seeks to map systematically the emblematic activities of thisExpand
Michels' iron law of oligarchy and union revitalisation: A reconsideration based on recent research
Recent literature on the decline and revitalisation of the labour movement has suggested that the future of unions lies in the adoption of radical approaches that aim to empower and mobilise unionExpand
Reviving the Labor Movement: A Comparative Perspective
In recent years, the long-declining U.S. labor movement has refocused in new and promising ways on rank-and-file mobilization, in organizing drives, collective bargaining conflicts and politicalExpand
Organization and organizing in revolutionary times: The case of Tunisian General Labor Union
Adopting Barker’s (2011) Marxist approach of a social movement “as a whole”, this article addresses the question of whether and how mass-membership movement organizations can break out of oligarchicExpand
Union renewal in the United States has been framed as an organizing project. But will “reinvesting in organizing” be enough to reverse membership decline and the growing marginality of organizedExpand
The Dialectic of Institutional and Extra-Institutional Tactics: Explaining the Trajectory of Taiwan's Labor Movement *
This article offers an interpretation of the development of Taiwan’s labor movement as an evolving dialogue and conflict between two tendencies. Due to democratization and liberal labor law reform,Expand
Overcoming Oligarchy: Culture and Agency in Social Movement Organizations
A case study of the Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation is used to examine how a mass-movement social organization has been able to avoid the consequences of an oligarchic leadership structure,Expand
Public Dramas and the Politics of Justice
Low-wage, nonstandard service work is an expanding sector of employment in today’s global economy. Although scholars document its effects on increasing poverty and inequality, few studies examine howExpand
The Institutional Logic of Union Organizing and the Effectiveness of Social Movement Repertoires1
Despite the growing interest in union organizing, there has been little effort to systematically describe the organizing landscape in America today. Institutionalization, which is an increasinglyExpand


Organizational Repertoires and Institutional Change: Women's Groups and the Transformation of U.S. Politics, 1890-1920
  • E. Clemens
  • Political Science
  • American Journal of Sociology
  • 1993
Although social movements are often presumed to cause change, the dominant theoretical accounts lead to the opposite conclusion. To explain how challenging movements do produce institutional change,Expand
“Revitalizing Labor in the U.S., Britain and Germany: Social Movements and Institutional Change”
Institutions shape behavior. This is the core argument of the theorists of modern institutionalism, an argument that has proven clear, parsimonious, and widely applicable for many differentExpand
The Pro-Choice Movement: Organization and Activism in the Abortion Conflict.
In this highly-praised analysis of the controversial pro-choice movement, Suzanne Staggenborg traces the development of the movement from its origins through the 1980s. She shows how a small group ofExpand
Social Movement Organizations: Growth, Decay and Change
The classical approach to the study of the transformation of social movements (here called the Weber-Michels model) predicts that a movement organization will become more conservative and that itsExpand
Social Movement Radicalization: the Case of the People's Democracy in Northern Ireland*
Most of existing literature assumes that social movement organizations will inevitably become more ideologically and tactically conservative over time. This paper presents a couterargument to thisExpand
Political Process and the Development of Black Insurgency, 1930-1970
In this classic work of sociology, Doug McAdam presents a political-process model that explains the rise and decline of the black protest movement in the United States. Moving from theoreticalExpand
Comparative Union Democracy: Organization and Opposition in British and American Unions.
A major empirical study of thirty-one British and fifty-one American national trade unions provides the background to this presentation of a new, organizationally oriented theory of union democracy.Expand
Reinventing an Organizing Union: Strategies for Change
Excerpt] Confronted by declining membership and market share as well as an erosion of bargaining strength and political influence, a sense of crisis now pervades many international unions. Some laborExpand
Political Protest and Cultural Revolution: Nonviolent Direct Action in the 1970s and 1980s
From her perspective as both participant and observer, Barbara Epstein examines the nonviolent direct action movement which, inspired by the civil rights movement, flourished in the United StatesExpand
Poor People's Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail
"Have the poor fared best by participating in conventional electoral politics or by engaging in mass defiance and disruption? The authors of the classic Regulating The Poor assess the successes andExpand