We Are the Union
Democratic Unionism and Dissent at Boeing
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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In June 1996, I attended a panel on the prospects for the labor movement at an activist conference in Chicago. On that panel was a union activist from Wichita, Kansas. His name was Keith Thomas, he worked at The Boeing Company, and he had a story to tell. The labor movement had been in a bad way through the 1980s and into the 1990s; ...
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First and foremost, I thank Keith and Shelley Thomas for opening their home and lives to me. Since this project began more than a decade ago, they have become family to me, my partner, and our daughter. I offer deepest thanks to all of the union activists in Wichita and the Puget Sound—Keith Thomas, Kelly Vandegrift, ...
Introduction: "To Get to Boeing, We First Had to Take on the Union"
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Advocates for social change often find themselves in an ambivalent relationship to the existing institutions, mechanisms, and rhetorical norms of change in U.S. society. For example, opponents of the death penalty and the vagaries of the criminal justice system still must use the courts as an arena of contestation. ...
1. Business Unionism and Rank-and-File Unionism at the Turn of the Millennium
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The history of labor in the United States since the latter half of the twentieth century has been, up until recently, a study in defeat. What will it take to beat back the ongoing employers’ offensive? Alongside tax cuts for the rich, real wages have stagnated, and consumer debt (totaling $2.6 trillion) is at record proportions, ...
2. Not a Smooth Flight for Boeing and the Union
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Robert J. Serling’s history of the Boeing Company describes Boeing as “a corporate Horatio Alger,” growing from a tiny manufacturing company into one of the nation’s largest industrial firms.1 Serling’s narrative emphasizes the engineering innovations and the personalities of the corporate leaders and engineers at Boeing, ...
3. Enter the Dissidents
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Keith Thomas is a tall, pale-haired, loud-talking, sturdy dynamo of a man. He is the kind of person who leaps to his feet to be useful before you realize you needed something. In July 1999, we were in his basement workshop getting ready for a picket at the Wichita, Kansas, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) union hall, ...
4. The Problem with “Jointness”
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In keeping with the traditional union philosophy, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers’ (IAMAW’s) vision has been one of maintaining credibility through negotiation with Boeing rather than antagonism. There is perpetual hope that this method will result in job security and other gains. ...
5. The 1995 Strike and the Rejection of the Second Contract
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During 1995, Boeing had eliminated nearly 35,000 union jobs, 26,000 of these in the Puget Sound area. Job security thus was central to the workers’ demands as they entered contract negotiations, along with shorter contracts, wage increases, and improvements in safety, health, and benefits, even for laid-off workers.1 ...
6. “The Feeble Strength of One”
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In her influential essay “The Problem of Speaking for Others,” Linda Alcoff observes that standing up to, for, and with others poses a dilemma.2 On the one hand, if one chooses to speak for others—for example, to speak for the rank and file as a leader of a union or of a dissident union caucus ...
7. Carrying the Memory of Agitation: A Dialogue between Keith Thomas and Dana Cloud
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This exchange—referred to by both Keith Thomas and Dana Cloud as a “postmortem” on Unionists for Democratic Change (UDC)—was edited and compiled from two conversations: The first is a recorded interview between Dana Cloud and Keith Thomas in Wichita, Kansas, on July 17, 2001, the evening after a small demonstration at the union hall earlier that afternoon; ...
8. Communication and Clout
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I have been a labor activist for twenty years. At the same time, I come to this project with an academic background in the field of communication studies, specifically in the areas of organizational communication and rhetorical theory and criticism, and I have aimed this work to address those academic audiences as well as the activist community. ...
Conclusion: The Beginnings and Ends of Union Democracy
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The explosion of working-class anger that erupted in early 2011 in Wisconsin and elsewhere across the United States prompted observers to either cheer the potential strength of labor or predict its demise. For example, Robert Samuelson, writing in Newsweek, asked, “Is organized labor obsolete?”1 ...
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Interviews and Archival Sources
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About the Author, Publication Information
Dana L. Cloud is an associate professor of communication studies at the University of Texas, Austin, and the author of Consolation and Control in American Culture: Rhetorics of Therapy. ...
Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2011