War and workers’ power in the United States: Labor struggles in war-provisioning industries, 1993-2016

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At the turn of the 21st century, a general disempowerment of industrial workers in the United States yielded pessimistic assessments of the labor movement. Yet, during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, industrial war‐provisioning workers in the United States engaged in a wave of largely successful struggles for a greater share of expanding war‐profits. This article investigates these strikes in war‐provisioning industries from 1993 to 2016, finding a wave of offensive struggles between 2003 and 2009. This wave is indicative of an increase in these workers’ structural bargaining power, due to growing state reliance on war‐materials provisioning during wartime. Nevertheless, transformations in the organization of production and war‐making made such empowerment ephemeral. This article demonstrates how changes in military actions and strategy—most notably, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Obama “pivot” to East Asia, and escalating “great power” rivalry—affect the bargaining power of workers in war‐provisioning industries.

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Many analyses point to Trump’s behavior on the world stage—bullying and racketeering more reminiscent of a mafioso than a statesman—as a personal character flaw. We argue that, while this behavior was shocking in how unvarnished it was, Trump marks the culmination of a decades-long trend that shifted US foreign policy from a regime of “legitimate protection” in the mid-twentieth century to a “protection racket” by the turn of the twenty-first. While the temperaments of successive presidents have mattered, the problems facing the US and its role in the world are not attributable to personalities but are fundamentally structural, in large part stemming from the contradictions of US attempts to cling to preeminence in the face of a changing global distribution of power. The inability of successive US administrations—Trump and Biden included—to break out of the mindset of US primacy has resulted in a situation of “domination without hegemony” in which the United States plays an increasingly dysfunctional role in the world. This dynamic has plunged the world into a period of systemic chaos analogous to the first half of the twentieth century.
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Muitas análises apontam para o comportamento de Trump no cenário mundial – intimidação e extorsão que mais lembram a um mafioso que a um estadista – como falha de caráter pessoal. Embora esse comportamento tenha sido chocante na sua falta de polidez, Trump marca o culminar de uma tendência de décadas que transformou a política externa dos EUA de um regime de “proteção legítima” em meados do século XX num “esquema extorsivo de proteção” na virada do século XXI. Embora os temperamentos de sucessivos presidentes tenham sido importantes, os problemas enfrentados pelos EUA e seu papel no mundo não são atribuíveis a personalidades, mas são fundamentalmente estruturais, majoritariamente decorrentes das contradições de suas tentativas de se agarrar à sua preeminência diante das transformações na distribuição global de poder. A incapacidade de seus sucessivos governos – incluindo Trump e Biden – de romper com a mentalidade de primazia dos EUA resultou numa situação de “dominação sem hegemonia”, na qual desempenham papel cada vez mais disfuncional no mundo. Essa dinâmica mergulhou o mundo num período de caos sistêmico análogo à primeira metade do século XX.
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This article proposes a general theoretical framework for under- standing the concept of "class compromise" in terms of a "reverse- J" model of the relationship between the associational power of workers and the interests of capitalists: increases in working-class power adversely affect capitalist-class interests until such power crosses some intermediate threshold beyond which further increases in working-class power are potentially beneficial to capitalists' inter- ests. This article argues that the reverse-J curve is itself the result of two distinct kinds of effects of workers' power on capitalists' in- terests: one, a negative effect, in which workers' power undermines the capacity of capitalists to unilaterally make various kinds of deci- sions, and the second, a positive effect, in which workers' power helps capitalists solve the various kinds of collective action problems they face.
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In recent decades, cost escalation for military fixed-wing aircraft of all types has exceeded that of commonly used in inflation indices, including the Consumer Price Index, the Department of Defense procurement de deflator, and the Gross Domestic Product de deflator. A relatively fixed investment budget (albeit one with cyclical variations) means that the Services must somehow accommodate higher unit costs. This accommodation may mean buying fewer aircraft than in the past or it may mean reprioritizing budgets between acquisition and operations and support. This monograph explores the causes of this unit cost escalation, including both economy-driven factors that the Services cannot control and customer-driven factors that they can.
People around the world are confused and concerned. Is it a sign of strength or of weakness that the US has suddenly shifted from a politics of consensus to one of coercion on the world stage? What was really at stake in the war on Iraq? Was it all about oil and, if not, what else was involved? What role has a sagging economy played in pushing the US into foreign adventurism? What exactly is the relationship between US militarism abroad and domestic politics? These are the questions taken up in this compelling and original book. In this closely argued and clearly written book, David Harvey, one of the leading social theorists of his generation, builds a conceptual framework to expose the underlying forces at work behind these momentous shifts in US policies and politics. The compulsions behind the projection of US power on the world as a "new imperialism" are here, for the first time, laid bare for all to see.
Between a River and a Mountain details American labor's surprisingly complex relationship to the American war in Vietnam. Breaking from the simplistic story of "hard hat patriotism," Wehrle uses newly released archival material to demonstrate the AFL-CIO's continuing dedication to social, political, and economic reform in Vietnam. The complex, sometimes turbulent, relationship between American union leaders and their counterparts in the Vietnamese Confederation of Labor (known as the CVT) led to dangerous political compromises: the AFL-CIO eventually accepted much-needed support for their Vietnamese activities from the CIA, while the CVT's need to sustain their relationship with the Americans lured them into entanglements with a succession of corrupt Saigon governments. Although the story's endpoint-the painfully divided and weakened labor movement of the 1970s-may be familiar, Wehrle offers an entirely new understanding of the historical forces leading up to that decline, unraveling his story with considerable sophistication and narrative skill.
The sad particulars about the “House of Labor” in the America of the 1980s are well known: Labor quiescence predominates, and the trade union movement, demoralized and disorganized, has rapidly lost momentum. The number of union members began to decline in 1979 and continued to do so for another decade, representing the greatest sustained loss of unionists since the 1920s. Unions have since lost between 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 million members. The rate of decline of “union density” (i.e., union membership as a percentage of the nonfarm labor force), already visible since 1954, began to steepen around 1979: It averaged about 0.4% per year for the period 1954–1978 but between 1% and 1.25% annually since 1979, more than double the previous rate.1 In the 1950s, unions won about two-thirds of the National Labor Relations Board certification elections held; in the 1960s, almost 60%. Since the late 1970s, however, unions have been winning only about 45% of NLRB certification elections, and during the Reagan years number of such elections declined by about 50% (Moody, 1987). Finally, labor’s strike activity, too, is much lower today than it was even two decades ago, with production time lost to strikes during the mid-1980s reaching an historic low.
Fighting for Democracy shows how the experiences of African American soldiers during World War II and the Korean War influenced many of them to challenge white supremacy in the South when they returned home. Focusing on the motivations of individual black veterans, this groundbreaking book explores the relationship between military service and political activism. Christopher Parker draws on unique sources of evidence, including interviews and survey data, to illustrate how and why black servicemen who fought for their country in wartime returned to America prepared to fight for their own equality. Parker discusses the history of African American military service and how the wartime experiences of black veterans inspired them to contest Jim Crow. Black veterans gained courage and confidence by fighting their nation's enemies on the battlefield and racism in the ranks. Viewing their military service as patriotic sacrifice in the defense of democracy, these veterans returned home with the determination and commitment to pursue equality and social reform in the South. Just as they had risked their lives to protect democratic rights while abroad, they risked their lives to demand those same rights on the domestic front.
In contrast to the diverse trends that prevailed for most of the postwar period, unionization rates in the advanced capitalist countries generally declined in the 1980s. I propose a discrete-time hazard-rate model to explain this novel pattern of labor disorganization. Model estimates indicate that union decline is related to growing economic openness, unemployment, pre-existing levels of unionization, the decentralization of collective bargaining institutions, and the electoral failure of social democratic parties through the 1980s.
This paper offers a theoretical framework for understanding both the invasion of Iraq and the “war on terror” in the context of neoliberal globalization. I argue that both the foreign and domestic policy pursued by the Bush administration under the rubric of the war on terror are in fact best understood as strategies for advancing the neoliberal agenda, in large part by seeking to undo gains made by the labor movement during the 1990s. I argue that for this ambitious and aggressive administration, the post‐9/11 atmosphere offers the prospect of permanently restructuring both popular expectations of government and the ability of working people to challenge corporate prerogatives.
Last fall's protests at the World Trade Organization talks in Seattle made it clear that trade policy is no longer the exclusive domain of sheltered elites and corporate interests. Following the example of big business, unions are now going global-backed by a growing worldwide consensus that freer trade must also protect human rights, the environment, and decent working conditions. The international ups strike in 1997 showed just how effective this new strategy can be.
Recasting labor studies in a long-term and global framework, the book draws on a major new database on world labor unrest to show how local labor movements have been related to world-scale political, economic, and social processes since the late nineteenth century. Through an in-depth empirical analysis of select global industries, the book demonstrates how the main locations of labor unrest have shifted from country to country together with shifts in the geographical location of production. It shows how the main sites of labor unrest have shifted over time together with the rise or decline of new leading sectors of capitalist development and demonstrates that labor movements have been deeply embedded (as both cause and effect) in world political dynamics. Over the history of the modern labor movement, the book isolates what is truly novel about the contemporary global crisis of labor movements. Arguing against the view that this is a terminal crisis, the book concludes by exploring the likely forms that emergent labor movements will take in the twenty-first century.
In order to protect the U.S. industrial base during periods of adversity and war, Congress passed domestic source restrictions as part of the 1941 Fifth Supplemental Department of Defense (DOD) Appropriations Act; these provisions later became the Berry Amendment. The Berry Amendment requires DOD to give preference in procurement to domestically produced, manufactured, or home grown products, notably food, clothing, fabrics, and specialty metals. The Berry Amendment (Title 10 United States Code (U.S.C.) Section 2533a, Requirement to Buy Certain Articles from American Sources; Exceptions) contains a number of domestic source restrictions that prohibit DOD from acquiring food, clothing, fabrics (including ballistic fibers), specialty metals, stainless steel, and hand or measuring tools that are not grown or produced in the United States.
Eisenscher contends that the labor movement will be unable to reverse its decline without extensive changes in institutional practices that became hegemonic during and immediately after World War II. This article considers current efforts to restore union power and the problems inherent in them. The article concludes with discussion of changes that are required for U.S. organized labor to avoid becoming little more than a niche influence in the twenty-first century.
A lot of people don't realize how invasive this whole process is […] I'd love to hire you Tom, but Transport Canada says that you don't get a security clearance. So I lose my job, but I'm not fired, and because you're not fired there is no severance pay, and good luck at the federal court of Canada […] it'll cost you twenty or twenty-five thousand dollars to get through. There's no compensation. If you get there […] how many years has that been? I lose my family, I lose my house, I lose my job, and it's all because there's been a mistake, or somebody's given erroneous or false information. 1 O ver the past five years, governments around the world have been busy crafting new policies, institutions, and rationales for national securitization. Largely at the behest of the United States, they have been compelled to define a wide range of new security measures. The 'war on terror' has focused heavily on securing the movement of people and goods across national borders, and the profiling of suspected terrorists on the basis of nationality, religion and ethnicity. This is the case, despite the fact that perhaps the only common thread to the various agents of non-state terror in the US, from Timothy McVeigh to Osama bin Laden, is some form of training by the US military. 2 This incredible disjuncture between perceived 'risks' and response continues to inform dominant conceptions of security, as well as the practices they organize. While the control of human migration has intensified alongside the globalization of production over the past few decades, border control has nevertheless been rapidly reworked since 2001. Mobility has been newly constrained for many people, largely through racial profiling and its impacts on no-fly lists, security certificates, and international 'information' sharing. On the other hand, the movement of goods across national borders has been liberalized in recent decades to facilitate the massive volume of cargo movement that constitutes global trade. However, since 9/11, politicians and security officials have become increasingly concerned about the incredible volume of unchecked cargo crossing borders. They are particularly anxious about the mysterious contents of shipping containers.
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Mary Kaldor's New and Old Wars has fundamentally changed the way both scholars and policy-makers understand contemporary war and conflict. In the context of globalization, this path-breaking book has shown that what we think of as war - that is to say, war between states in which the aim is to inflict maximum violence - is becoming an anachronism. In its place is a new type of organized violence or 'new wars', which could be described as a mixture of war, organized crime and massive violations of human rights. The actors are both global and local, public and private. The wars are fought for particularistic political goals using tactics of terror and destabilization that are theoretically outlawed by the rules of modern warfare. Kaldor's analysis offers a basis for a cosmopolitan political response to these wars, in which the monopoly of legitimate organized violence is reconstructed on a transnational basis and international peacekeeping is reconceptualized as cosmopolitan law enforcement. This approach also has implications for the reconstruction of civil society, political institutions, and economic and social relations. This third edition has been fully revised and updated. Kaldor has added an afterword answering the critics of the New Wars argument and, in a new chapter, Kaldor shows how old war thinking in Afghanistan and Iraq greatly exacerbated what turned out to be, in many ways, archetypal new wars - characterised by identity politics, a criminalised war economy and civilians as the main victims. Like its predecessors, the third edition of New and Old Wars will be essential reading for students of international relations, politics and conflict studies as well as to all those interested in the changing nature and prospect of warfare.
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