Spontaneity, Coalition Structure, and Strategic Choice

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Following the Great Recession, austerity programs and restrictions on the public sector were introduced worldwide. In this article, I ask how and why labor coalitions in two states used differing organizational structures to respond to “shock politics” that severely restricted public-sector unions in 2011. I find the availability or lack of a citizen-initiated veto referendum shaped but did not completely explain differences in strategic choices between unions in Wisconsin and Ohio. Rather, tensions among allies and lack of time for strategic planning also contributed to a nonhierarchical coalition in Wisconsin, while Ohio unions had ample time to create a bureaucratic coalition and plan a successful veto referendum campaign. I argue that given sufficient time to respond to political threats, hierarchical organizations can promote efficient, effective deployment of some political tactics.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalSociological Perspectives
StatePublished - Mar 4 2020


  • collective behavior and social movements
  • labor and labor movements
  • strategy and tactics
  • teachers’ unions


  • Sociology
  • Politics and Social Change

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