“Social unionism” is one of the catchiest terms in the labor movement. Many unions, including my own, claim to use social unionism. But what is social unionism, and has it succeeded?
Social unionism came to prominence over the past few decades as an answer to the decline in union power. The idea is that the “labor movement” is a social movement that should focus on issues beyond power at work. Social unionism is modeled after the foundation-funded advocacy work of Saul Alinsky during the Cold War. The “Alinsky model” shifted the struggle from a battle between workers and employers to different pluralist “interests.”