The recent recall election and challenge to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker by unionized workers has taken center stage in the news the last few weeks, as divisive battles over the health and stability of unions in middle-class America and concerns over employment, the economy, and budget cuts continue to ignite passions nationwide.

Contributing to this dialogue is Dana L. Cloud, a professor in the Department of Communication Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, whose recent academic book, “We Are the Union: Democratic Unionism and Dissent at Boeing,” provides an insightful case study of collective bargaining and union activism to help explain the current climate in the U.S.

The book, which was released in December, contains a chapter co-written by Boeing worker R. Keith Thomas and examines several labor disputes Boeing underwent in the mid-to-late 1990s. The book situates these events in the context of U.S. labor history and of decades-long efforts on the part of rank-and-file workers in many unions to build union democracy.

In the failure of unions in Wisconsin to inspire the electorate to oust Walker in a recall election, Cloud said that union leadership focused on electoral politics instead of on strategies that could promote the interests of workers more directly such as going on strike.

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