Staughton Lynd was born in 1929 and grew up in New York City. His parents, Robert and Helen Lynd, co-authored the well-known Middletown books. Staughton went through the schools of the Ethical Culture Society. Above the auditorium of the main school are written the words: "The place where men meet to seek the highest is holy ground."
Staughton Lynd received a BA from Harvard, an MA and PhD from Columbia, and a JD from the University of Chicago. He taught American history at Spelman College in Atlanta, where one of his students was the future Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Alice Walker, and at Yale University.
Staughton served as director of Freedom Schools in the Mississippi Summer Project of 1964. In April 1965, he chaired the first march against the Vietnam War in Washington DC. In August 1965, he was arrested together with Bob Moses and David Dellinger at the Assembly of Unrepresented People in Washington DC, where demonstrators sought to declare peace with the people of Vietnam on the steps of the Capitol. In December 1965, Staughton along with Tom Hayden and Herbert Aptheker made a controversial trip to Hanoi, in hope of clarifying the peace terms of the Vietnamese government and the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam.
Because of his advocacy and practice of civil disobedience, Lynd was unable to continue as a full-time history teacher. The history departments at five Chicago-area universities offered him positions, only to have the offers negatived by the school administrations. In 1976, Staughton became a lawyer and until his retirement at the end of 1996 worked for Legal Services in Youngstown, Ohio. He specialized in employment law, and when the steel mills in Youngstown were closed in 1977-1980 he served as lead counsel to the Ecumenical Coalition of the Mahoning Valley, which sought to reopen the mills under worker-community ownership, and brought the action Local 1330 v. U.S. Steel.
Staughton Lynd and Alice Niles met in Cambridge. Alice's parents were in the process of becoming Friends, and Staughton had become aware of Quakerism through a cousin who served as an ambulance driver during World War II. They were married at the Stony Run Meeting House in Baltimore in 1951. They have three children and seven grandchildren. In the early 1960s they became convinced Friends, and joined the Atlanta Friends Meeting. They are presently members of the 57th Street Meeting in Chicago.
The Lynds have jointly edited four books: Homeland: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians; Nonviolence in America: A Documentary History, revised edition (Orbis Books, 1995, now in its sixth printing); Rank and File: Personal Histories by Working-Class Organizers; and, most recently, The New Rank and File (Cornell University Press, 2000), which includes oral histories of labor activists in the past quarter century.
Read the revised and expanded 98-page article, "Moral Injury and Conscientious
Objection: Saying No to Military Service," by Alice Lynd with the assistance of Staughton Lynd now online at
Solidarity Unionism: Rebuilding the Labor Movement from Below, Second Edition
Author: Staughton Lynd • Introduction by Immanuel Ness • Illustrated by Mike Konopacki
Publisher: PM Press
Page count: 128
Subjects: Labor Studies / Politics
Solidarity Unionism is critical reading for all who care about the future of labor. Drawing deeply on Staughton Lynd's experiences as a labor lawyer and activist in Youngstown, OH, and on his profound understanding of the history of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), Solidarity Unionism helps us begin to put not only movement but also vision back into the labor movement.
While many lament the decline of traditional unions, Lynd takes succor in the blossoming of rank-and-file worker organizations throughout the world that are countering rapacious capitalists and those comfortable labor leaders that think they know more about work and struggle than their own members. If we apply a new measure of workers’ power that is deeply rooted in gatherings of workers and communities, the bleak and static perspective about the sorry state of labor today becomes bright and dynamic.
To secure the gains of solidarity unions, Staughton has proposed parallel bodies of workers who share the principles of rank-and-file solidarity and can coordinate the activities of local workers’ assemblies. Detailed and inspiring examples include experiments in workers' self-organization across industries in steel-producing Youngstown, as well as horizontal networks of solidarity formed in a variety of U.S. cities and successful direct actions overseas.
This is a tradition that workers understand but labor leaders reject. After so many failures, it is time to frankly recognize that the century-old system of recognition of a single union as exclusive collective bargaining agent was fatally flawed from the beginning, and doesn’t work for most workers. If we are to live with dignity, we must collectively resist. This book is not a prescription but reveals the lived experience of working people continuously taking risks for the common good.
“Solidarity Unionism is an essential text for all rank-and-file workers as well as labor activists. Beautifully succinct, it outlines how CIO unions grew into an ineffectual model for rank-and-file empowerment, and provides examples of how alternative labor organizations have flourished in the wake of this. Lynd illustrates to a new generation of workers that we do have alternatives, and his call for a qualitatively different kind of labor organization gives us an ideological and strategic framework that we can apply in our day-to-day struggles on the shop floor.”
—Diane Krauthamer, Industrial Worker
“Solidarity Unionism is based in a vision of genuine democracy. It's accessibly written and rich in practical examples. I've used it successfully in study groups and labor education courses both to draw out and learn from participants' own experiences and to plan our next steps in struggles. Challenging some of what are conventionally thought of as “wins” (e.g., dues checkoff or signed contracts), the book impels the kind of strategic thinking otherwise lacking in most of labor and the Left.”
—Norm Diamond, former president, Pacific Northwest Labor College and coauthor of The Power in Our Hands
“Brother Staughton Lynd continues to offer an informed, critical voice and many important ideas for today's labor movement. Anyone fighting for a better world for working people will be glad to read this revised edition of Solidarity Unionism, and to pass it on to students, friends, and fellow workers.”
—Michael Honey, Haley Professor of Humanities, University of Washington–Tacoma and author of Going Down Jericho Road
“Staughton Lynd's Solidarity Unionism mines his decades of labor activism and a century of American workers' struggles to shine a beacon on an alternative path that replaces top-down labor organization with local autonomy and community-level networking. Before you despair of reasserting workers' rights and power, read Solidarity Unionism!”
—Jeremy Brecher, Labor Network for Sustainability, author of Strike!
“In Solidarity Unionism, workers are protagonists, not spectators, and that makes all the difference in the world. Staughton Lynd's ideas will be at the heart of the next mass worker rising.”
—Daniel Gross, executive director of Brandworkers and cofounder of IWW Starbucks Workers Union
Accompanying: Pathways to Social Change
Author: Staughton Lynd
Publisher: PM Press
Published December 2012
Size: 8 by 5
Page count: 176 Pages
In Accompanying, Staughton Lynd distinguishes two strategies of social change. The first, characteristic of the 1960s Movement in the United States, is “organizing.” The second, articulated by Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, is “accompaniment.” The critical difference is that in accompanying one another the promoter of social change and his or her oppressed colleague view themselves as two experts, each bringing indispensable experience to a shared project. Together, as equals, they seek to create what the Zapatistas call “another world.”
Staughton Lynd applies the distinction between organizing and accompaniment to five social movements in which he has taken part: the labor and civil rights movements, the antiwar movement, prisoner insurgencies, and the movement sparked by Occupy Wall Street. His wife Alice Lynd, a partner in these efforts, contributes her experience as a draft counselor and advocate for prisoners in maximum-security confinement.
“Since our dreams for a more just world came crashing down around us in the late 1980s and early 1990s, those of us involved in social activism have spent much of the time since trying to assess what went wrong and what we might learn from our mistakes. In this highly readable book, Lynd explores the difference between organizing and accompanying. This book is a must read for anyone who believes a better world is possible.”
“Everything that Staughton Lynd writes is original and provocative. This little book is no exception. Among his greatest contributions on display here is the transformation of the ‘organizer’ and ‘organized’ into a collaboration of different people with different skills, each making a decisive contribution.”
—Paul Buhle, author of Robin Hood: People’s Outlaw and Forest Hero
“Accompanying is arguably the most thoughtful examination of Archbishop Oscar Romero’s concept of accompaniment insofar as it helps us to understand how liberation theology matured from taking a ‘preferential option for the poor’ to companionship with the poor as they organize themselves… This legacy flows into the Occupy Movement today when it reclaims foreclosed homes, and occupies banks and spaces collectively and spontaneously. This book would be important at any moment in history, but is indispensable today as we accompany one another in the quest to free ourselves from the shackles of the world the 1 percent has inflicted on us.”
—Carl Mirra, Associate Professor of Education, Adelphi University, and author of The Admirable Radical: Staughton Lynd and Cold War Dissent, 1945–1970
"I like this book very much. The fact that it is based on Alice and Staughton's own experiences of accompanying makes it a very valuable tool for understanding and promoting the notion."
—Father Joe Mulligan, SJ
Solidarity Unionism at Starbucks
Authors: Staughton Lynd and Daniel Gross with illustrations by Tom Keough
Publisher: PM Press
Published: January 2011
Page Count: 36
Dimensions: 8.5 by 5.5
Subjects: Labor, Politics
Combining history and theory with the groundbreaking practice of the model by Starbucks workers, Lynd and Gross make a compelling case for solidarity unionism as an effective, resilient, and deeply democratic approach to winning a voice on the job and in society.
From Here To There: The Staughton Lynd Reader
By Staughton Lynd
Edited with an introduction by Andrej Grubacic
Publisher: PM Press
Published: April 2010
Page Count: 336
Dimensions: 9 by 6
Subjects: Politics, Activism, History
From Here To There collects unpublished talks and hard-to-find essays from legendary activist historian Staughton Lynd. The common theme is the conviction that humankind should reject capitalism and imperialism, and seek a transition to another world.
The first section of the Reader collects reminiscence and analysis of the 1960s. A second section offers a vision of how historians might immerse themselves in popular movements while maintaining their obligation to tell the truth. In a last group of presentations entitled “Possibilities” and a three-piece “Conclusion,” Lynd explores what nonviolence, resistance to empire as a way of life, and working class self-activity might mean in the 21st century.
In a wide-ranging Introduction, anarchist Andrej Grubacic considers how Lynd's persistent concerns relate to traditional anarchism. Grubacic and Lynd advocate a convergence of anarchism and Marxism. Inspired by the Zapatista upheaval in Mexico, the two friends find lessons for radicals elsewhere in Zapatista ideas such as 'mandar obediciendo,' to lead by obeying. They believe that Zapatista practice helps to make concrete what a movement might look like that sought, not to take state power, but to control the nation state from below.
"I met Staughton and Alice Lynd nearly fifty years ago in Atlanta. Staughton's reflective and restless life has never ceased in its exploring. This book is his great gift to the next generations." --Tom Hayden
"Staughton Lynd's work is essential reading for anyone dedicated to implementing social justice. The essays collected in this book provide unique wisdom and insights into United States history and possibilities for change, summed up in two tenets: Leading from below and Solidarity." --Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz
"This remarkable collection demonstrates the compassion and intelligence of one of America's greatest public intellectuals. To his explorations of everything from Freedom Schools to the Battle of Seattle, Staughton Lynd brings lyricism, rigour, a historian's eye for irony, and an unshakable commitment to social transformation. In this time of economic crisis, when the air is filled with ideas of 'hope' and 'change,' Lynd guides us to understanding what, very concretely, those words might mean and how we might get there. These essays are as vital and relevant now as the day they were written, and a source of inspiration for activists young and old." --Raj Patel
"The Staughton Lynd Reader is a veritable treasure chest. Lynd shows unparalleled respect for rank-and-file movements. If you're interested in broad social change and meaningful democracy, you simply must read Staughton Lynd." --Daniel Gross
Lucasville examines the causes of the disturbance, what happened during the eleven days, and the fairness of the trials. Particular emphasis is placed on the inter-racial character of the action, as evidenced in the slogans that were found painted on walls after the surrender: "Black and White Together," "Convict Unity," and "Convict Race."
An eloquent Foreword by Mumia Abu-Jamal underlines these themes. He states, as does the book, that the men later sentenced to death "sought to minimize violence, and indeed, according to substantial evidence, saved the lives of several men, prisoner and guard alike." Of the five men, three black and two white, who were sentenced to death, Mumia declares: "They rose above their status as prisoners, and became, for a few days in April 1993, what rebels in Attica had demanded a generation before them: men. As such, they did not betray each other; they did not dishonor each other; they reached beyond their prison 'tribes' to reach commonality."
"Mr. Lynd is a masterful storyteller and he has a hell of a story to tell. [He] has written a definitive history of one of the longest prison riots in U.S. history and its aftermath. That alone is worth the price of admission....What makes the book unique in the historical sense is the remarkable range of primary and secondary sources; Lynd writes with a lawyer's pen but a poet's ear....This book is a reminder that prisoners—even death row prisoners—are human beings, too. Lucasville is a resounding affirmation of our common humanity."
--Michael Mello, author of The Wrong Man: A True Story of Innocence on Death Row
--Peter Linebaugh, Department of History, University of Toledo; author of The London Hanged and coauthor of The Many-Headed Hydra
"Lucasville is one of the most powerful indictments of our 'justice system' I have ever read. What comes across is a litany of flaws deep in the system, and recognizably not unique to Lucasville. The detailed transcripts (yes, oral history!) give great power to the whole story."
--Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States
Wobblies & Zapatistas: Converstions on Anarchism, Marxism, and Radical History
by Staughton Lynd & Andrej Grubacic
Published: Sept. 2008
Page Count: 300
Dimensions: 8 by 5
Subjects: History, Politics
Wobblies & Zapatistas offers the reader an encounter between two generations and two traditions. Andrej Grubacic is an anarchist from the Balkans. Staughton Lynd is a lifelong pacifist, influenced by Marxism. They meet in dialogue in an effort to bring together the anarchist and Marxist traditions, to discuss the writing of history by those who make it, and to remind us of the idea that "my country is the world." Encompassing a Left-libertarian perspective and an emphatically activist standpoint, these conversations are meant to be read in the clubs and affinity groups of the new Movement.
The authors accompany us on a journey through modern revolutions, direct actions, antiglobalist counter-summits, Freedom Schools, Zapatista cooperatives, Haymarket and Petrograd, Hanoi and Belgrade, "intentional" communities, wildcat strikes, early Protestant communities, Native American democratic practices, the Workers' Solidarity Club of Youngstown, occupied factories, self-organized councils and soviets, the lives of forgotten revolutionaries, Quaker meetings, antiwar movements, and prison rebellions. Neglected and forgotten moments of interracial self-activity are brought to light. The book invites the attention of readers who believe that a better world, on the other side of capitalism and state bureaucracy, may indeed be possible.
“There's no doubt that we've lost much of our history. It's also very clear that those in power in this country like it that way. Here's a book that shows us why. It demonstrates not only that another world is possible, but that it already exists, has existed, and shows an endless potential to burst through the artificial walls and divisions that currently imprison us. An exquisite contribution to the literature of human freedom, and coming not a moment too soon.”
--David Graeber, author of Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology and Direct Action: An Ethnography
"In these desperate, often tragic, times, we look backward, forward, even to our dreams to be able to keep imagining a world in which justice may be part of more people's lives. We look to lives lived before ours, to stories and their meanings, to strategies culled from the worlds of politics or ancient wisdoms. We look in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, and here in the United States. We are willing to entertain any new idea or revamped strategy. Staughton Lynd's life and work put him in a unique position to seek out someone like Grubacic, ask the pertinent questions, and tell the meaningful stories. Grubacic's experience perfectly compliments Lynd's. Here we have the best of a non-dogmatic Marxism listening to a most creative and humane anarchism. But this book is never weighted down by unforgiving theory. Just the opposite: it is a series of conversations where the reader feels fully present. It provides a marvelous framework for enriching the conversation that's never really stopped: about how we may make this world a better place."
--Margaret Randall, author of Sandino's Daughters, When I Look Into the Mirror and See You, and Narrative of Power
Labor Law For the Rank and Filer: Building Solidarity While Staying Clear of the Law 2nd ed.
By Staughton Lynd and Daniel Gross
Published: Sept. 2008
Page Count: 110
Dimensions: 8 by 5
Subjects: Labor, Politics
Have you ever felt your blood boil at work but lacked the tools to fight back and win? Or have you acted together with your coworkers, made progress, but wondered what to do next? If you are in a union, do you find that the union operates top-down just like the boss and ignores the will of its members?
Labor Law for the Rank and Filer: Building Solidarity While Staying Clear of the Law is a guerrilla legal handbook for workers in a precarious global economy. Blending cutting-edge legal strategies for winning justice at work with a theory of dramatic social change from below, Staughton Lynd and Daniel Gross deliver a practical guide for making work better while reinvigorating the labor movement.
Labor Law for the Rank and Filer demonstrates how a powerful model of organizing called “Solidarity Unionism” can help workers avoid the pitfalls of the legal system and utilize direct action to win. This new revised and expanded edition includes new cases governing fundamental labor rights as well as an added section on Practicing Solidarity Unionism. This new section includes chapters discussing the hard-hitting tactic of working to rule; organizing under the principle that no one is illegal, and building grassroots solidarity across borders to challenge neoliberalism, among several other new topics. Illustrative stories of workers’ struggles make the legal principles come alive.
"Workers' rights are under attack on every front. Bosses break the law every day. For 30 years Labor Law for the Rank and Filer has been arming workers with an introduction to their legal rights (and the limited means to enforce them) while reminding everyone that real power comes from workers' solidarity."
--Alexis Buss, former general secretary-treasurer of the IWW
"As valuable to working persons as any hammer, drill, stapler, or copy machine, Labor Law for the Rank and Filer is a damn fine tool empowering workers who struggle to realize their basic dignity in the workplace while living through an era of unchecked corporate greed. Smart, tough, and optimistic, Staughton Lynd and Daniel Gross provide nuts and bolts information to realize on-the-job rights while showing us that another world is not only possible but inevitable."
--John Philo, legal director, Maurice and Jane Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice
"Some things are too important to leave to so called “experts”: our livelihoods, our dignity and our rights. In this book, Staughton Lynd and Daniel Gross have provided us with a very necessary, empowering, and accessible tool for protecting our own rights as workers."
--Nicole Schulman, co-editor “Wobblies! A Graphic History” and World War 3 Illustrated
For a calendar of speaking events, please click here
- Is There Anything More to Say About the Rosenberg Case?
By Staughton LyndReposted from The Monthly ReviewFor more than forty years, defenders of the Rosenbergs have offered an argument unchanged in its essentials. The prosecution obtained the ultimate punishment by means of a kind of evidence universal...
- Power to the People
"Although on a very small scale (which by no means diminishes the deed), we, the people, have wrought a revolution—“a sudden and momentous change in a situation”—and accomplished in twelve days what the powers that ...
- A Welcome Prison Victory at Youngstown
"Three death-sentenced men went on hunger strike in Ohio State Penitentiary on January 3 to win the same rights as others on death row in the state. On Saturday January 15, the twelfth day of their protest, a crowd of supporters gathered i...
- Lucasville Five Hunger Strike Begins --An interview with author Staughton Lynd
"In 1993, the maximum security Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio was the site of an historic prisoner rebellion, where more than 400 prisoners seized and controlled a major area of the prison for eleven days..." ...
- Howard Zinn: Historian
Presented on April 9, 2010 at the Organization of American Historians session called Remembering Howard Zinn, hosted by the The Labor and Working-Class History Association (LAWCHA) and Historians Against the War (HAW).
Remarks by Staughton Lund for the Left Forum, March 15, 2008
- Is the Iraq War Illegal
Staughton Lynd is the principal author of a friend of the court brief in support of Lt. Ehren Watada filed in Lt. Watada's court martial proceedings on behalf of Historians Against the War and the American Friends Service Committee.
- History From the Bottom Up
We are here today for a ritual passing of the torch, from graying codgers like Howard Zinn, Jesse Lemisch and myself, to younger historians like Jim Pope and Carl Mirra, and hopefully, to many of you.
- An Interview With Staughton Lynd About the Labor Movement from Znet
- Staughton Lynd on Democracy Now!
- Staughton Lynd Interview on Lucasville Five Hunger Strike: Angola 3 News
- Andrej Grubacic and Staughton Lynd on The Staughton Lynd Reader from ZNet
- Andrej Grubacic and Staughton Lynd on Wobblies& Zapatistas from Znet
- Solidarity Unionism: Waging NonViolence
- Solidarity Unionism: Building Workplace Organizations Anew: CounterPunch
- Solidarity Unionism: Rebuilding the Labor Movement From Below: Rabble.ca
- Lucasville: Free City Radio
- Accompany for Change: a review in Anthropology Now
- Accompanying: Pathways to Social Change in In These Times
- Accompanying: Pathways to Social Change in Publishers Weekly
- Labor Law for the Rank and Filer: FreakOutNation
- From Here To There: A Review in American Communist History Journal
- From Here To There in The Sixties
- The Return of Staughton Lynd: HistoryNews Network
- Dismantling the Self-Constructed Barrier: A Conversation on Anarchism and Marxism: NACLA
- Alternative Action: Hour
- Anarchism, Marxism, and Zapatismo: Upside Down World
- Wobblies and Zapatistas: Political Affairs Magazine
- Staughton Lynd Tackles Wobblies and Zapatistas: The Industrial Worker
- Some Thoughts on Synthesis and Political Identity: From Theory to Action
- Re-Forging the Working Class: The Indypendent
- Labor Law for the Rank and Filer: Ernesto Aguilar, Political Media Review
- Labor Law for the Rank and Filer: UE Local 170
- What We Can Do, A Review of Labor Law: Z Magazine
By Eric Dirnbach
November 4th, 2105
"Lynd is a legendary progressive lawyer and activist from Youngstown, Ohio. He is the coauthor with his wife Alice Lynd of the classic “Rank and File: Personal Histories by Working-Class Organizers,” a collection of oral histories of militant union organizers, which informs much of the framework of “Solidarity Unionism.” At around 100 pages, the book reads more like a summary of his organizing philosophy, and many readers will come away wanting a more extensive discussion. It should be read along with several other recent books which make similar arguments: Stanley Aronowitz’s “The Death and Life of American Labor: Toward a New Workers’ Movement,” and “New Forms of Worker Organization: The Syndicalist and Autonomist Restoration of Class-Struggle Unionism,” edited by Immanuel Ness, who also provided the introduction for “Solidarity Unionism.”"
By Pete Dolack
Weekend Edition June 26-28, 2015
"...New types of organizations are not only necessary, it is essential to look at past upsurges in union activity, particularly those of the 1930s, with clear eyes rather than romanticization, argues Staughton Lynd in Solidarity Unionism: Rebuilding the Labor Movement from Below. A new re-issue and updating of a classic work, the book has lost none of its timeliness. Critical to understanding how unions lost their way, becoming too cozy with the corporate managements they are supposed to challenge, is the stifling of rank-and-file activity, particularly of militant tactics, by Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO) unions in the 1930s..."
By Daniel Tseghay
April 30th, 2015In 1982, when service and maintenance workers at a hospital in Warren, Ohio went on strike, they were not alone. Members of the Workers' Solidarity Club from Youngstown, Ohio -- about 200 km away -- joined the picket line. They made leaflets, invited members of other unions to join the hospital workers in rallies every week, and got themselves arrested while chanting "Warren is a union town, we won't let you tear it down."
The Workers' Solidarity Club was not an established union but an alternative to one, created by workers displeased by the organizations meant to advocate on their behalf. It's one among many "alternative kinds of organization, like the shopfloor committee and the parallel central labor union," writes Staughton Lynd admiringly in Solidarity Unionism: Rebuilding the Labor Movement From Below.
By Stefan Christoff
Free City Radio
August 27, 2014
Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising is a striking account on an important and under acknowledged prison uprising in recent US history, communicated by longtime lawyer, social activist and writer Staughton Lynd.
Lucasville articulates so clearly the reality of internal colonial dynamics in the US vis-à-vis the African-American experience, as the majority white town of Lucasville, Ohio, plays host for a major prison with a majority black prisoner population, staffed by almost exclusively white prison guards.
by Chris Kortright
February 25th, 2014
As an academic discipline that draws its force from work in the field, anthropology has a long and complex relationship with movements for social change such as anti- colonial and land claim movements as well as agrarian insurgencies. Some anthropolo- gists use ethnography to voice concerns and draw attention to rural and urban struggles at the local and global scale. Although they well may be committed to the support of, and solidarity with, social movements, more often than not their position is that of the “expert”—positioned outside. Researchers enter a location for an extended period of time but ultimately they return “home.” Home is, again, on the outside. That said, there are many intellectuals and researchers who are creating projects that challenge this position of outside expert; they attempt to produce research practices that involve working closely with the community, which in turn helps to set the direction, scope and goals of the research. There is much to learn from this approach to research practice and collaboration. And to learn, intellectuals are beginning to listen to voices rising from within social movements themselves.
One such voice—actually a pair of voices—is that of Staughton and Alice Lynd.
By Andy Piascik and Staughton Lynd
April 1, 2014
"Piascik: What is your general view of the state of organized labor in the United States today?
Lynd: My general view, like that of everyone else, is that the labor movement is in catastrophic decline. My particular view is that the reason for this decline is not the Supreme Court, or the McCarthy period, or anything that might be remedied by changing the top leadership of unions, but the model of trade union organizing that has existed in all CIO unions since 1935. The critical elements of this model are: 1) Exclusive representation of a bargaining unit by a single union; 2) The dues check-off, whereby the employer deducts dues for the union from the paycheck of every member of the bargaining unit; 3) A clause prohibiting strikes and slowdowns for the duration of the contract; 4) A “management prerogatives” clause giving the employer the right to make investment decisions unilaterally.
In combination these clauses in the typical CIO contract give the employer the right to close the plant and prevent the workers from doing anything about it. So long as collective bargaining agreements conform to this template, the election of a Miller, a Sadlowski, a Carey, a Sweeney, or a Trumka will not bring about fundamental change."
While Lynd still sees a role for labor unions, especially with more democratic control and worker initiative (like the UFCW’s OUR Walmart campaign), neither he nor Alperovitz devotes much attention to conventional, electoral politics. But democratizing power and wealth on a large scale will require major changes in government, and a large-scale political effort may require additional strategies (such as, Lynd writes, going beyond consensus decision-making in small groups to representative democracy). Lynd advocates a mass labor or socialist party, but he gives higher priority to building movements that can pressure politicians, as the Left, he says, has failed to do with Obama. “Obama is a liberal, a good human being,” he said in our interview, “and we have failed him.”
Lynd’s and Alperovitz’s strategic visions differ, but they complement each other. Together they offer an important component of the answer to what a new New Left must do. A spirit of democracy and egalitarianism animates both visions, but neither fully imagines how the Left might gain and use state power or how to change the national or global economic rules to support their decentralized future.
Lynd's poignant memoir of a life devoted to social justice is also a chronicle of the major social movements of the second half of the 20th century. He describes the slow process of coming to understand that real change cannot be imposed by organizers from the outside without committed people within each community. Lynd (Lucasville)tells of workers such as his friend, Ed, who reminds him that "the union's in the people." While working in the Civil Rights Movement, he admired how members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee practiced "accompaniment": living with and respecting the people they served. His chapter concerning the war in Vietnam leads to the example of El Salvadoran bishop Oscar Romero and the growth of his Liberation Theology, a Catholic movement promoting equality for the poor and indigenous. Despite resistance to his teaching, violence, and the murder of priests, Romero was made an archbishop in 1977, only to be assassinated in 1980. Lynd regards Romero's life as one of the best examples of accompaniment. Recently, Lynd and his wife, Alice, equally involved in this work, have been "accompanying" prisoners at a nearby penitentiary. Lynd closes with an account of the Occupy movement as a hopeful sign of equality and solidarity for a better world.
by Jamie Sanderson
November 18th, 2012
Blending cutting-edge legal strategies for winning justice at work with a theory of dramatic social change from below, Staughton Lynd and Daniel Gross deliver a practical guide for making work better while re-invigorating the labor movement. Labor Law for the Rank and Filer demonstrates how a powerful model of organizing called “Solidarity Unionism” can help workers avoid the pitfalls of the legal system and utilize direct action to win. This new revised and expanded edition includes new cases governing fundamental labor rights as well as an added section on Practicing Solidarity Unionism.
January 4, 2011
AMY GOODMAN: Now, to understand where they are, how this prison was even built, what a supermax means, let’s go back to, well, the subject of your book, Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising. What happened in 1993?
STAUGHTON LYND: Well, in 1990, at Lucasville, which was Ohio’s maximum-security prison—not supermax, maximum—there was a dreadful incident and, I would add, an ambiguous incident, perhaps not completely understood, where a black male prisoner followed a white teacher into the women’s restroom, and as white officers sought to break down the door, with all sorts of rape fantasies in their minds, the prisoner cut the woman’s throat. And that triggered a so-called Operation Shakedown. A new warden was brought in. There were lines painted on the floor on which people had to march to meals. There was a special post office box set up by the warden so that prisoners could inform—that is to say, snitch—on one another. And what has always seemed to me perhaps the most communicative detail, prisoners were allowed one brief telephone call at Christmas time per year.
By Angola 3 News
A3N: Why was this story so important to you that you decided to write a book about it?
SL: In 1996 my wife and I became aware that as a result of the Lucasville uprising, a new maximum security prison called the Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) was being built in Youngstown. We organized a community forum at which one of the speakers was Jackie Bowers, sister of one of five prisoners condemned to death after the surrender. We met her brother, George Skatzes (pronounced 'skates.') His lawyer told us that we could best help by investigating facts not presented at trial and we have been doing that ever since.
The importance of the story is that the five men sentenced to death are three blacks and two whites. Two of the three blacks, Siddique Abdullah Hasan and Namir Abdul Mateen, are Muslims. At the time of the rebellion the two whites were members of the Aryan Brotherhood. One is still an AB leader although Skatzes has withdrawn. These five men have acted in solidarity during their almost eighteen years of solitary confinement. They have refused to 'snitch' on each other.
If truth be told, I say with certainty, Lynd’s life and example as presented by Mirra and Grubačić would resonate with some rebellious, restless and discontented Eastern Kentucky coal miners and their sons and grandsons, as well as a few FSU history Ph.D.s. More than a few coal miners from Appalachia, and their descendants, would appreciate Lynd’s defiance of Cold War authority and his distaste for the limited effectiveness of “corporate liberalism.”
Andrej Grubacic, a radical historian and anarchist from the Balkans, has compiled a set of valuable, and sometimes obscure, selections of Lynd’s writings over the past four decades. From Here to There offers the reader a glimpse into the possibilities and alternatives to capitalism, war, racism and top-down institutions. The Reader demonstrates Lynd’s commitment to justice for African Americans, workers, prisoners and the victims of American imperialism during his involvement in the civil rights, anti-war, labor, and prisoner rights movements. Grubacic’s edited collection, despite Summers’ claim that Lynd “vanished from intellectual society,”12 demonstrates Lynd’s contribution to the intellectual climate long past “the sixties.” Grubacic’s introduction is autobiographical as he states: “My intention is to describe the process that led myself, an anarchist revolutionary from the Balkans, to discover, and eventually embrace, many of the ideas espoused by an American historian, Quaker, lawyer and pacifist, influenced by Marxism.” Grubacic’s intention is to present to the reader “the relevance of Staughton Lynd’s life and ideas for a new generation of radicals”
By Paul Bocking
The Industrial Worker
In an opening chapter of Wobblies and Zapatistas, interviewer Andrej Grubacic refers to Staughton Lynd as "something of a guru of the new IWW." The title is apt. Within the grassroots labour movement of North America and beyond, as a labour lawyer and advocate, Lynd has popularized the concept of Solidarity Unionism–building a union through the daily efforts of rank-and-file workers on the shop floor to come together and 'act like a union'. Lynd is the radical antidote to the many prominent union leaders, intellectuals and academics who claim that to address the contemporary challenges of production moving overseas, massive multinational employers and anti-union governments, unions must become more hierarchical, open to 'partnerships' with employers, and increasingly focused on lobbying politicians...
By Abbey Volcano
Theory in Action
Other themes visited throughout this conversation between Andrej Grubacic and Staughton Lynd are the notions of accompaniment and the role of radical intellectuals, the role of women in radical movements, class unity that sometimes exists despite white racism, etc. The book is packed with conversations about issues that directly impact modern radicals and visionaries. For this alone, it is well-worth the time investment to read it.
By Andy Piascek
June 5, 2009
The popular wisdom on the Left and in the labor movement is that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), passed in 1935, was a great boon for workers. The passage of the NLRA, or Wagner Act, with its provisions that made it legal to organize, join unions, bargain collectively and strike, is commonly portrayed as a huge victory that workers and unions unanimously supported. The true story of this law, however, is more complex...
Labor Law for the Rank and Filer
By Ernesto Aguilar
Political Media Review
Romantic though it seems, the life of labor organizers and unions is messy. Most everyone is familiar with the firings for union organizing from which many a motion picture has borrowed from as grist. But such high drama can easily be avoided by bosses who understand the law and manipulate missteps to their advantage. No doubt corporate attorneys are able to advise their clients to thwart organizing while staying within guidelines. And then there are confused organizers who do not grasp the subtleties of labor issues, let alone their own rights, which can further damage the process. With such forces at play, it is a wonder labor organizing happens at all. Enter Labor Law for the Rank and Filer: Building Solidarity While Staying Clear of the Law by Staughton Lynd and Daniel Gross, an essential book for anyone interested in worker activism and doing so in a way that stays unruly while protecting employees...
UE Local 170
This small but powerful volume serves two purposes, as the subtitle suggests. The most pressing and obvious need this book fulfills is as an admirably concise primer of labor law — which the publisher ensured was updated literally to the moment it went to press.
Originally published in 1978, and later revised in 1982, the new edition is easily worth the modest price, even to the most experienced shop steward, for its summary of current labor law, including the most recent interpretative rulings...
What Can We Do
By Michael McGehee
Staughton Lynd was a professor at Spelman College where he helped organize activities with SNCC's "Freedom Schools" and later went on to become a labor lawyer and peace activist. Daniel Gross, an organizer with the Industrial Workers of the World, is the founding director of Brandworkers, a non-profit organization that works to protect and advance the rights of workers in the retail and food chain industries. Labor Law for the Rank and Filer was first published by Lynd in the late 1970s but was republished in late 2008 with some updates and a new chapter by Lynd and Gross...
Living Inside Our Hope: A Steadfast Radical's Thoughts on Rebuilding the Movement. Cornell University Press, 1997. Chapter Four of Living Inside Our Hope is an essay co-authored by Alice and Staughton called "Liberation Theology for Quakers," which first appeared as a Pendle Hill pamphlet.
Lucasville: The Untold Story Of A Prison Uprising. Temple University Press, 2004.
Solidarity Unionism: Rebuilding the Labor Movement from Below. Charles H. Kerr, 1992.
"We Are All Leaders": The Alternative Unionism of the Early 1930s. University of Illinois Press, 1996.