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Bhardwaj, Maya (2021) 'Feminist Social Movement Unionism From South To North.' The SOAS Journal of Postgraduate Research, 13 (2019/2020). pp. 7-30.

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Abstract

Employer crackdowns on trade unionisation, neoliberal governments’ gutting of trade union protections, and increasing bureaucratisation and risk-averseness of unions themselves, have led to declines in traditional trade union membership. This coupled with informalisation, feminisation, increased migrant labour, newer workforces, and alternate modes of worker organising, has forced trade unions to alter their methods of organising in order to retain their base and their relevance. One way that this has manifested is through social movement unionism, where trade unions explicitly partner with social movements and NGOs on campaigns and social movement work. In this paper, I assess the viability of these social movement unionism coalitions by examining several case studies in the Global North and South through secondary and primary research and identifying conditions for success and failure. I argue that due to increased migration of workers from the Global South to the Global North, the relocation of labour and capital to the Global South itself, and increasingly radical feminist lenses in worker organising and social movements, unions who have prioritised strategies led by people of colour and praxis that is explicitly decolonial, feminist, and transnational have greater success. This is true both when unions work independently and when collaborating with social movements. When such collaborations between unions and non-union social movement forces fail, it is often due to the opaque and top-down organising methods that plague traditional trade unions, and using outdated organising models that preference white, heterosexual men. But when collaborations occur successfully, these coalitions exhibit explicitly feminist and decolonial modes of organising through horizontal and diversified leadership that centre the most directly impacted organisers and activists, transparent and democratic decisionmaking and communications channels, and expansive and radical worldviews that reach beyond campaign wins to orient towards transformative change.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: trade union; social movement; social movement unionism; feminist leadership; decolonial organizing; people of colour; transnational organising
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Doctoral School
SOAS Open Access Journals > The SOAS Journal of Postgraduate Research
ISSN: 25176226
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00035315
Date Deposited: 16 Jul 2021 11:41
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/35315

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