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Abstract

The article argues that ‘renewal’ and ‘crisis’ are inadequate descriptors of the current state of the American and Canadian labour movements. Many of the structural and strategic shifts that have remade labour unions in North America over the past two decades — including new organizing strategies, bargaining outcomes and political strategies — speak rather to a contradictory reconstitution of organized labour along neoliberal lines and the impasse of the renewal project. If there is a crisis in the labour movement, it is a crisis in the nature of trade unions as working-class organizations. The article builds this argument through, in turn, a historical overview, a critical reading of the labour renewal literature and a discussion of current trade union practice.