libcom.org's reading guide around trade or labour unions and the role they play in modern society.
- Unions - an introduction - libcom.org's clear and concise guide to unions, their function and how we think workers should relate to them.
- Red flags torn: a brief sketch of some problems with unions - Ed Goddard - article briefly explaining some of the problems inherent in the official trade unions and the need for workers to take control of their actions out of the hands union bureaucrats.
- Unions: a revolutionary critique - Red and Black Notes - brief text advancing a communist anti-union position, looking at the way unions serve to nullify dissent and channel struggle in "acceptable" directions.
- Fighting for ourselves: anarcho-syndicalism and the class struggle - Solidarity Federation - excellent short book, which includes a useful critique of the unions in chapter 1 and proposes a revolutionary alternative.
- The origins of the union shop - Tom Wetzel - article about the limitations of union closed shops and how they helped unions act as a tool of discipline of workers instead of a tool for defending their interests.
- Organized labour versus "the revolt against work" - John Zerzan - excellent article examining how unions often participate in the exploitation of workers, focussing in particular on the US car manufacturing industry from the 1930s to 1970s (the author much later on in his life wrote a lot of terrible stuff, but we promise this is good).
- Institutionalization from below: The unions and social movements in 1970s Italy - Robert Lumley - chapter of Robert Lumley's excellent book on the mass struggles in Italy in the 1960s-70s detailing how the unions re-gained control of the social movements and channelled them into "representative" politics.
- "The fight of our lives": an analysis of the UK pensions dispute - Steven Johns - a detailed look at the struggles in 2011-12 in the UK over pensions, and the role the unions played in this.
- 1970-1972: The Lordstown struggle and the real crisis in production - Ken Weller - highly interesting pamphlet on workers' struggles against the frenetic pace of work at a General Motors plant, and the co-optation of the struggle by the auto workers union.
- Wildcat: Dodge Truck June 1974 - detailed article by participants and eyewitnesses about the wildcat strike at the Chrysler truck plant in Michigan, 1974, and the roles of the workers, the union and the left.
- Anatomy of an industrial struggle: Chrysler factory at Tonsley Park in Adelaide 1976-1978 - detailed account by one of the workers of two years of struggle at a plant and the role the union played in it.
Other recommended texts
- Between a rock and a hard place: thoughts on militant workers as reps - Phil Dickens - Interesting article by a shop steward evaluating the difficulties in being a radical union activist.
- On rank-and-file action, trade union representation and building confidence - Phil Dickens - A brief note on why forms of action taken at the behest of trade union structures cannot be equated with rank-and-file led organisation and direct action.
- “Just and peaceful labor relations”: Why the U.S. government supported collective bargaining - Nate Hawthorn - brief account of some of the history of the capitalist state’s sponsorship of contracts for unions in the United States, with an emphasis on the reasoning that politicians and judges gave for their support of collective bargaining.
- Thinking about unions: association and representation - Joseph Kay - Interesting article looking at the tensions inside unions between their ability to bring workers together in struggle and their role as representatives/mediators of that struggle.
- Better than we know ourselves: a ruling class view of the trade unions - Article adapted from the May 2012 article of Black Flag magazine which examines the trade unions from the perspective of the bourgeoisie.
- Trade unions: pillars of capitalism - Internationalist Perspective - Interesting series of articles debating the nature of unions and how we should relate to them.
- Unions and political struggle - Mouvement Communiste - French libertarian communist group Mouvement Communiste's analysis and critique of the trade unions.
- Unions archive - libcom.org's unions tag containing all our content about the nature of unions and trade unionism.