Trade Unionism Under Globalization: The Demise of Voluntarism?

14 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2009 Last revised: 19 Apr 2010

Date Written: April 11, 2010


We are now beginning to see a qualitative change in labor’s relationship to the state: trade unionism as a supplement to politics. Labor’s economic objectives have not changed; the means are undergoing change. The thesis of this paper is that largely in response to the deepening of competitive forces in private markets in the U.S. - from deregulation, changing technology and the opening up of global labor and product markets (due to decreasing transportation and communication costs and the lowering of trade barriers) - organized labor increasingly will function predominantly as a political organization. Collective bargaining will continue to provide an institutional raison d’etre and critical funding source for unions but only one (and a diminishing one) of several means for advancing the interests of its members and other constituencies. This is not to suggest the emergence of a labor party on the European model; it is an American variant: the fortunes of the labor movement will become ever more tightly tied to the fortunes of the Democratic Party and economic goals increasingly will be achieved not at the bargaining table but through the provision of public resources.

Keywords: Trade Unions, Globalization, Politics, Voluntarism, Labor Markets

JEL Classification: J39, J45, J51, J53, J58

Suggested Citation

Estreicher, Samuel, Trade Unionism Under Globalization: The Demise of Voluntarism? (April 11, 2010). St. Louis University Law Review, Vol. 54, No. 2, 2010, NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 09-58, NYU Law and Economics Research Paper No. 09-45, Available at SSRN:

Samuel Estreicher (Contact Author)

New York University Law School ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States
(212) 998-6226 (Phone)
(212) 995-4341 (Fax)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics