35 Lab. Stud. J. 5 (2010)

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Introduction to Special IssueLao qdcJurl
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Unions, the Working Class,55584
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Jn  the two-year interim period prior to the 2008 U.S. presidential election, organ-
  ized labor anticipated a political rebirth. The congressional biannual elections in
2006 saw a significant number of labor-friendly Democrats elected, and with a very
unpopular incumbent president damaging the Republican brand, labor prepared to
once again have influence in the nation's capitol. As it turned out Barack Obama
won,  Democrats  extended their control over both houses of Congress, and the
chance to produce real labor law reform among other progressive policy changes
shifted from mere aspiration to possible. At the same time, north of the border
Canadian  trade unionists were confronted with an evolving relationship with the
New  Democratic Party (NDP) that brought about political success but an ambiguous
expectation of policy outcomes. All of this political maneuvering provided labor
academics in Canada  and the United States with a chance to reflect back on past
elections and to assess the meaning of union political activity in 2008.
   At the United Association for Labor Education conference in 2009, papers were
presented on two panels dedicated to the labor movement and politics. In this special
issue, six of those manuscripts are presented, and they represent a rich diversity of
authors (e.g., tenured faculty and graduate students), disciplines (e.g., psychology
and political science), methodological approaches (e.g., theoretical, quantitative,
case study), and levels of analysis (e.g., institutional, individual, group, county and
state populations). Collectively, the thesis of the articles is constructed on an eclectic
mix  of original survey data, statistical mining of census and voting records, the
application of behavioral theory to voter issue preference, an analysis of institutional
behavior and  intention, and a community-level case of personal transformation
through political awareness.
   Two of the articles are strikingly similar in their focus on Canadian union-party
relations, while arriving at  contrary conclusions. Larry  Savage  argues  in
Contemporary  Party-Union  Relations in Canada that the longstanding political
alliance between the Canadian labor movement and the NDP has experienced seri-
ous stresses that have weakened union-party relations. Rooted in larger macroeco-
nomic and political transformations, these developments, according to Savage, have
frayed the tenuous political link among labor, the NDP, and working people. But in
Changing  Union-Party Relations in Canada: The  Rise of the Working Families
Coalition, Bradley Walchuk identifies a new political development that he believes
offers potential gain to working Canadians. Walchuk examines the Working Families
Coalition (WFC) and its effects on union-party relations. Unlike Savage, Walchuk
suggests that the WFC's defensive stand against the worst excesses of neoliberalism
is a move toward a more productive quid pro quo relationship.


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