Memory, Mobilization, and the Social Bases of Intra-Union Division: Some Lessons from the 2009-2010 USW Local 6500 Strike in Sudbury, Ontario

Adam D.K. King


Abstract Purpose. This paper engages with workers’ accounts of a strike in Northern Ontario, Canada to consider the processes through which intra-union tensions develop and to examine their implications for member involvement and mobilization.
Design/methodology/approach. The paper draws on interviews with currently employed and retired United Steelworkers miners in Sudbury, Ontario, and analyses their memories and narratives of the 2009-2010 strike at Vale (Inco).
Findings. I argue that differences in the accounts of the strike between older and younger workers result from their historically specific class positions, as well as the uneven nature of contract concessions. I suggest that generational tension could be an impediment to future broad-based member engagement.
Research limitations/implications. The research contributes to work on union renewal and social unionism.
Originality/value. The paper provides insight into the dynamics of member mobilisation and contract concessions, and asks us to consider the social bases of intra-union division.

Keywords: Mining, Union renewal, Member mobilisation, Memory, Generational tension