The cowboy mentality: Organizers and occupational commitment in the new labor movement

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Abstract

This paper details the experiences of union organizers in Sweeney's "new labor movement." It examines the occupational demands that organizers must contend with, such as extensive travel, long hours and emotionally demanding work. The author then describes the occupational culture of organizing, otherwise known as "the cow boy mentality." Far from a centrally coordinated retention strategy, the cowboy mentality is a set of assumptions about organizing being more than a job, being superior to other forms of work in the labor movement, and being best experienced with an intensity resembling a military boot camp. The author then demonstrates how the cowboy mentality paradoxically strengthens the occupational commitment of some organizers, while alienating and excluding others. Interviews with organizers reveal that women and people of color are most likely to be alienated by the cowboy mentality, thus undermining new labor's efforts to diversify the movement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-62
Number of pages30
JournalLabor Studies Journal
Volume28
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2003

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