Most workers affected by this new paradigm are not at risk for being maimed or killed on the job, the way American miners were in the 1860s when dangerous working conditions spurred them to unionize. But they feel vulnerable in a different way. In a world where a full-time, long-term job with benefits at a single company is increasingly rare, these so-called precarious or contingent workers often lead unpredictable lives without financial stability or a clear set of similarly affected colleagues.

Under this new regime, formal unionization is out of the question for millions of Americans. In response, the labor movement has begun to experiment with new possibilities for how workers might negotiate for better conditions. Beyond outside shots at unionization like that of the college football players, worker groups and labor advocates are exploring ways to harness collective action without the official bargaining rights that made unions such powerful institutions in the past.
Not your grandpa’s labor union - Ideas - The Boston Globe