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Prison Abolition, Labor Unions, and the Emergence of Abolitionist Unionism

February 03, 2023

A hand with long red nails holds a graffitied police car. The police car is on fire, in pink flames. 
A hand with long red nails holds a graffitied police car. The police car is on fire, in pink flames. 

Paul Sindberg L ’23

Paul Sindberg[1] is an organizer and a law student from Chicago, Illinois. Prior to law school, Paul worked on organizing campaigns with UFCW and SEIU. Paul is a Toll Public Interest Fellow at Penn Law and a 2022 Peggy Browning Fellow with the Chicago News Guild. They are also the founding Volunteer Director of the Compassionate Release Collaborative, a pro bono project with the Abolitionist Law Center.

Prison Abolition, Labor Unions, and the Emergence of Abolitionist Unionism

“Syndicalism is not merely logical in its anti-military agitation; it is most practical and far-reaching, inasmuch as it robs the enemy of his strongest weapon against labor.”

-Emma Goldman, Syndicalism: The Modern Menace to Capitalism (1913)

Prison abolition is a broad horizon, and the thinkers and writers who describe that horizon want not simply to abolish the prison itself but to abolish the society where prison was possible.[2] Accordingly, abolitionists in legal academia and elsewhere grapple with the idea that liberation from capital will be a necessary component of the abolitionist vision.[3] That is, abolitionists know class struggle is an abolitionist struggle.[4]

Abolition, too, has never been a simply theoretical project. We have been hastening the arrival of that broad horizon as long as our vision of it existed.[5] Recently, even legal scholars have begun pivoting to consider how we will get there.[6] Lawyers are distilling lessons from histories, proposing alternatives, and detailing strategies.

In that process, it has become clear that police unions pose a significant obstacle. Wielding outsized political influence like they wield their taxpayer-funded, taxpayer-facing weapons, police unions have strenuously opposed every effort to chip away at their murderous powers.[7] It is here that abolitionists have begun to ponder the relationship between organized labor and our anti-carceral movement: unions are positioned as obstacles to our liberation.[8]

This is not the first time that unions have been obstacles to our liberation. Unions fought against immigration,[9] against racial justice,[10] and against gender equity.[11] White working people’s own property interests in the enforcement of white supremacy gave rise to a segregationist labor movement.[12] And these histories inform how we arrived at today’s alignment between organized labor and police.

It is a funny thing, though, that alignment. There is no better summation of just how funny a thing it is than the following quote from Mariame Kaba’s forward to Andrea J. Ritchie’s Invisible No More: “the origin story of modern American policing is slave patrols and union busting.”[13] Twenty-six people, including two women, eleven children, and thirteen striking unionists died in Ludlow, Colorado at the hands of private police in 1913.[14] In 1926, at the Battle of Blair Mountain, fifty to one-hundred union members were slain by the sheriff’s forces.[15] The Little Steel Strike, in 1937, saw eighteen union members killed by the Chicago Police Department.[16] And eight days prior to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., sixteen-year-old Larry Payne was murdered by Patrolmen Leslie Dean Jones during a march of striking sanitation workers.[17] This is nowhere near a complete accounting of union lives lost to police – instead, it is a simple representation of a historic dynamic.[18] Unions have taken on public, private, state, and federal police forces wherever they have exercised collective power. Union members are the people who have taken up arms against police when the liberatory movement has so demanded. The horrific history of police violence against working people eroded from public memory as neoliberalism rose to wrap movements in complex allegiances,[19] but labor history demonstrates that police protect property, not lives. Police enforce scarcity; they do not provide security. They are not allies of unions.

In recognition of this truth, today, efforts like No Cop Unions and #DropTheCops, led by rank-and-file union members and organizers, seek to transform the labor movement by terminating organizational affiliations with police unions.[20] This movement has inspired state-level union leaders to call for national disaffiliation,[21] and notably, at least one county-level labor council has successfully expelled police unions.[22] Graduate workers are also organizing to defund university police in the name of academic freedom.[23] In spite of business union leadership attempts to enforce the contrary,[24] workers are building a new conception of their collective power that Chelsea Birchmier, Austin Hoffman, Logan Middleton, A. Naomi Paik, and Angela Ting have named abolitionist unionism.[25]

Emergent legal scholarship on the promise of abolitionist unionism is coming in whispers and shouts from several arenas. Scholars writing about the history of unionization amongst incarcerated workers have offered significant implications for the law of unions today.[26] Legal theorists working to define and advance abolition democracy are recognizing the importance of this DuBoisian[27] concept to asymmetries of economic power.[28] They are also grappling with significant questions about the distribution of power itself, and about the ability of abolitionists to build the type of power necessary to make decisions absent reliance upon the state.[29] Law students are explicitly calling for the intertwining of these movements,[30] and labor law historians are chronicling the effects of the criminalization of economic radicalism on the movement for working people and demanding alternatives.[31] Labor law scholars are also engaging with abolitionist scholarship to discuss and evaluate the directions labor policy should take to facilitate new organizing.[32] They are also working to disambiguate critiques of police unions and general anti-union sentiment.[33] Even in constitutional law, authors are recoupling the Thirteenth Amendment and labor organizing.[34] And movement lawyers, as they define themselves, cite both abolitionist organizing and labor organizing as critical components of the struggle to transform society.[35] These scholars are not all abolitionists, and they are not all unionists, either, but their work is shaping the contours of the concept nonetheless.

The cords that weave union struggle into abolitionist struggle are storied. The syndicalists of the industrial revolution stood firmly against police and against militaries; they worked to build alternative relations of care to replace state-enforced scarcity.[36] The scholarship of each movement has been mutually constitutive – for instance, the distinction between “non-reformist reforms” that take decision-making power away from the elite class and “reforms” that consolidate elite decision-making power has been central to abolitionist thought about the road from here to the horizon.[37] That distinction was first described by the labor movement and was later brought to abolitionist organizing.[38]

Similarly, when he named “mutual aid” as a tactic, social anarchist and natural historian Peter Kropotkin cited the existence of the practice amongst striking workers as an example of its feasibility;[39] now, mutual aid occupies a critical space in both abolitionist organizing and abolitionist theory.[40] Scholars of the labor movement identified why, in 1935, through the passage of the Wagner Act, Congress declared that “the policy of the United States” is to “eliminate… obstructions” to “the exercise by workers of full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives” for the purpose of “mutual aid:” that is, for much of its early history, the labor movement was synonymous with the phrase “mutual aid.”[41] The motivating conception of labor action was to build more survivable relationships between members of the working class, as to render the capitalist class unnecessary.[42] Class struggle and penal abolition are both projects of mutual aid, and unions can re-emerge as the vehicles for sustaining those projects.

In October 2019, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73 struck together for eleven days.[43] As a Union Organizer-in-Training with SEIU at the time, I spent the strike building childcare networks and meal delivery programs to help make sure all workers could stand strong together on the picket line. It was the worker’s resilience, maintained by mutual aid, that allowed them to win a strong contract.[44] That June, my partner and I joined CTU in a march to demand the city defund police in schools. Carrying banners that read “Educate, Don’t Incarcerate” and “Fund Black Futures,” we sang with thousands of others: “we want freedom, freedom; all these racist officers, we don’t need them, need them.” Abolitionist unionism is not just possible - it is here, it is happening, and we can carry it forward to meet the horizon of our liberation.


[1] Paul Sindberg, J.D. Candidate, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School ’23. This post benefitted immensely from the generous contributions of Prof. Sophia Lee and Prof. Karen Tani, whose visions of our more just future thoroughly inspire my own. I am also so glad to have the wisdom of my comrades and fellow students Layla June West, Nimo Ali, and many others represented herein. The accompanying art was created by the spectacular Fairy Boy – more of their work can be found @akafairyboy on Instagram and Twitter.

[2] In gratitude to their clarity of thought and their work in expanding and critiquing abolitionist scholarship, here, I paraphrase the following quote from Fred Moten and Stefano Harney: “what is, so to speak, the object of abolition? Not so much the abolition of prisons but the abolition of a society that could have prisons, that could have slavery, that could have the wage, and therefore not abolition as the elimination of anything but abolition as the founding of a new society.” Fred Moten & Stefano Harney, The University and the Undercommons: Seven Theses, 22 Soc. Text 101, 114 (2004). For a brilliant discussion of this quote and its significance, please see Allegra M. McLeod, Envisioning Abolition Democracy, 132 Harv. L. Rev. 1613 (2019).

[3] Though scholars analyze the links between carceral systems and capital differently, many see the end of one as a necessary component of the end of the other. See, e.g., Marina Bell, Abolition: A New Paradigm for Reform, 46 Law & Soc. Inquiry 32, 46 (2021) (“A non-reformist reform approach, on the other hand, would understand, for instance, that efforts to eradicate poverty, predatory capitalism, militarization/war, and white supremacy are decarceration and crime-reduction strategies, because these things directly contribute to problems of crime, violence, and mass incarceration.”) See also Dorothy E. Roberts, Foreword: Abolition Constitutionalism, 133 Harv. L. Rev. 1, 47 (2019) (“The U.S. capitalist system, which is governed by profit and market competition, has been integral to racial subordination since the slavery era and is antithetical to guaranteeing everyone the income, housing, healthcare, and education required for a society without the stark inequalities in well-being that fuel the prison industrial complex.”)

[4] Sean Larson, The Abolitionist Road to Socialism, Rampant Mag (July 23, 2020) ( (“In the US, the struggle for revolutionary socialism and the antiracist struggle for abolition are one and the same.”). See also Allegra M. McLeod, Prison Abolition and Grounded Justice, 62 UCLA L. Rev. 1156, 1225 (2015) (“Security is more meaningfully furthered in these terms by social solidarity, flourishing neighborhoods, dignified work, education, labor unions, empowerment of vulnerable persons, community organizations, and basic social infrastructure.”).

[5] American revolutionaries expressed dissatisfaction with the despotic British criminal justice system, and prisoners struck in protest at America’s first prison. See, e.g., Striking the Right Balance: Toward A Better Understanding of Prison Strikes, 132 Harv. L. Rev. 1490, 1493-1494 (2019). Angela Davis, in conversation with Dylan Rodriguez, cited Thomas Mathieson’s The Politics of Abolition in 1974 as an important development in the history of the modern abolitionist movement. Angela Y. Davis & Dylan Rodriguez, The Challenge of Prison Abolition, 27 Social Justice 212, 215 (2000).

[6] See generally Anthony O’Rourke et. al., Disbanding Police Agencies, 121 Colum. L. Rev. 1327 (2021). See also Mirko Bagaric, Dan Hunter, & Jennifer Svilar, Prison Abolition: From Naïve Idealism to Technological Pragmatism, 111 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 351 (2021).

[7] See, e.g., Toni Jaramilla, BLM: Uprisings to Reform, L.A. Law., June 2021, at 28, 32 (“Finally, the power of police unions needs to be severed. The blue code is perpetuated by police unions that fight against a department’s efforts to promote transparency and accountability.”); Catherine L. Fisk, L. Song Richardson, Police Unions, 85 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 712, 755 (2017) (“In addition to protection against discipline, accountability, and transparency, many states have laws that require management to collectively bargain over any changes to conditions of employment. This requirement can also stymie reform efforts.”); Rachel A. Harmon, The Problem of Policing, 110 MILR 761, 799 (“Collective bargaining rights deter department-wide changes intended to prevent constitutional violations even more dramatically.”)

[8] This phenomenon has not gone unreviewed. Benjamin Levin provides a tremendous critical interrogation of popular critiques of police unions, arguing for greater precision in navigating the problem they pose to racial justice reform. Benjamin Levin, What’s Wrong with Police Unions? 120 Colum. L. Rev. 1333, 1388 (2020) (“Certainly, to [reformist] critics, police unions are objectionable. But they are objectionable because they represent a consolidation of otherwise- or already-illegitimate power. The problem is police.”) See also generally Marcia L. McCormick, Our Uneasiness with Police Unions: Power and Voice for the Powerful? 35 St. Louis U. Pub. L. Rev. 47 (2015). Geo Maher responded to Benjamin Levin’s article by underscoring how police unions are already unresponsive to trends and policy that impact other public sector unions, and by clarifying that the existence of police unions within larger associations has “an overall conservatizing effect” on the labor movement that chills new organizing amongst the groups of workers oppressed by policing. Geo Maher, A World Without Police 114, 120 (2021) (“Some, like law professor Benjamin Levin, are critical of police unions but seek to distinguish the police from their union. For Levin, demands for transparency and public accountability are “risky” because they echo arguments made against other public sector unions like teachers, and because “attacking police by arguing for stripping organizing rights legitimates anti-union arguments.”).

[9] See, e.g., Don Gonyea, How the Labor Movement Did a 180 On Immigration, NPR: All Things Considered (Feb. 5, 2013, 1:51 PM) (

[10] See, e.g. Emily White, “Not Our Problem:” Construction Trade Unions and Hostile Environment Discrimination, 10 N.Y. City L. Rev. 245, 245-246 (2006) (listing tactics unions have used to exclude racial minorities from membership, such as “administering invalid admission tests… providing inadequate training to women and minority apprentices, failing to include nondiscrimination language in the union constitution and collective bargaining agreements, refusing to refer women and minorities to jobs, failing to pursue grievances for members experiencing discrimination; and perhaps most effective, contributing to hostile work environment harassment of women and minorities.”).

[11] See, e.g., Eileen Boris & Annelise Orleck, FEMINISM AND THE LABOR MOVEMENT: A Century of Collaboration and Conflict New Labor Forum (Jan. 2011) ( (Working-class feminists “battled men who sought to exclude women from unionized jobs and who denied organized women workers a full share of power in the labor movement.”).

[12] Cheryl I. Harris, WHITENESS AS PROPERTY, 106 Harv. L. Rev. 1709, 1776 (1993) (“The Court, disturbed by the loss of employment to innocent whites, overrode the provision in the union agreement that modified seniority rules in the interest of remediating past racial discrimination, and ordered reinstatement of the more senior white employees.”); and see Id. at 1791 n.325 (describing segregationist practices in craft unions).

[13] Mariame Kaba, Foreword to Andrea J. Ritchie, Invisible No More, at xi, xv (Beacon Press) (2017).

[14] See, e.g., Meagan Day, The Richest American Family Hired Terrorists to Shoot Machine Guns at Sleeping Women and Children, Timeline (Apr. 3, 2018) ( (telling the story of the private police murder of 26 people, including two women, eleven children, and 13 striking unionists).

[15] Robert Shogan, The Battle of Blair Mountain (2006) (contextualizing the 1921 massacre of 50 to 100 union members by private police).

[16] Ahmed White, The Last Great Strike (2016) (describing the 1937 Little Steel Strike, in which 18 union members were killed by the Chicago Police Department).

[17] Sasha Jones, As MLK50 Nears, Family Remembers Teen Killed Marching with MLK Action News 5 (Mar. 28, 2018) ( (chronicling the murder of 16-year-old Larry Payne by Patrolmen Leslie Dean Jones during the march of striking sanitation workers seven days prior to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech and eight days prior to his assassination).

[18] See generally Kristian Williams, Our Enemies in Blue (2014), particularly Chapter 5 §2: “Strikebreakers, Pinkertons, and Police.” There is a difference between anti-carceral and anti-military work, and there is also a difference between anti-military and anti-war work, but for a relevant history of anti-war sentiment in the American labor movement, please see generally John Bennett Sears, Peace Work: The Antiwar Tradition in American Labor from the Cold War to the Iraq War, 34 (4) Diplomatic History at 716 (Sept. 2010) (identifying public sector labor union pushback to cutbacks related to military spending, for instance).

[19] See David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (2005) at 168 (“Neoliberalization seeks to strip away the protective coverings that embedded liberalism allowed and occasionally nurtured. The general attack against labour has been two-pronged. The powers of trade unions and other working-class institutions are curbed or dismantled within a particular state (by violence if necessary) … The second prong of attack entails transformations in the spatial and temporal co-ordinates of the labour market.”).

[20] See, e.g., Kim Kelly, Rank-and-File Revolt, The Baffler, Working Stiff (July 1, 2020) ( See also No Cop Unions (@NoCopUnions), Twitter I was briefly involved in organizing professional union staff to support the #DropTheCops social media campaign coordinated by No Cop Unions while a Union Organizer-in-Training with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in 2019. Some union locals are also asking national organizations to disaffiliate from police unions, and scholars have taken notice. Kate Levine, Police Suspects, 116 Columbia L. Rev. 1197, 1237 (2016).

[21] Geo Maher, A World Without Police 113 (2021) (“The young president of South Dakota AFL-CIO, Kooper Caraway, has called for” the expulsion of the International Union of Police Associations.).

[22] Id (“A county labor council in Seattle successfully voted to expel the Seattle Police Officers Guild, the largest police association in the Northwest.”). This was a significant popular victory, accomplished via rank-and-file organizing, rather than through union leadership: 45,435 county labor delegates voted to expel the Guild, or 55% of the delegates who voted. Elise Takahama, Seattle Police Officers Guild expelled from King County’s largest labor council, The Seattle Times (June 17, 2020 at 10:14 AM)’s%20largest%20labor%20council%20voted%20Wednesday%20evening%20to%20expel,and%20racism%20in%20recent%20weeks (

[23] This note was inspired in significant part by Chelsea Birchmier, Austin Hoffman, Logan Middleton, A. Naomi Paik, & Angela Ting, Toward Abolitionist Unionism: Resisting Pandemics, Police, and Academic Austerity at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, 12 J. of Academic Freedom (2021). Their articulation of the opportunities and urgencies for collaboration between unionists and abolitionists rings so clearly. This note – and my interest in graduate worker unionization and abolitionist organizing – was also inspired both by personal experiences in the labor movement and in neighborhood mutual aid efforts in Chicago. As an employee of SEIU, I worked on many external unionization campaigns, including graduate worker unionization campaigns at Loyola University – Chicago, Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville, and Illinois State University. I would also like to extend my deepest love to my comrades in Graduate Employees Together – University of Pennsylvania.

[24] Prior to his death, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka campaigned extensively against movements to defund the police. See, e.g., Hamilton Nolan, AFL-CIO Leader Richard Trumka Defends Police Unions by Comparing Them to Employers, In These Times: Labor (June 22, 2020) ( Under his leadership, the AFL-CIO responded to increasing calls to disaffiliate from police unions by releasing a report authored by “law enforcement and parole and corrections officers, supplemented by the participation of the former executive director of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) and deputy commissioner of training for the New York City Police Department,” among others. The report called for increased officer training and resources, and it identifies that “police unions resent when outsiders question their judgment or actions in the line of duty.” AFL-CIO Labor Commission on Racial and Economic Justice Report (2017) at 36, 49, 51.

[25] Chelsea Birchmier, et. al, Toward Abolitionist Unionism: Resisting Pandemics, Police, and Academic Austerity at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, 12 J. of Academic Freedom (2021).

[26] Keith Armstrong, “You May Be Down and Out, but You Ain’t Beaten”: Collective Bargaining for Incarcerated Workers, 110 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 593 (2020).

[27] “Abolition democracy” is W.E.B. Du Bois’s vision of a racially just society. That vision continues to inspire resplendent works of liberatory thought and practice. See, e.g., Allegra M. McLeod, Envisioning Abolition Democracy, 132 Harv. L. Rev. 1613, 1618 (2019) (citing Angela Davis, Abolition Democracy 95-96 (2005) (citing W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America 163-77 (Routledge 2017) (1935))

[28] Bernard E. Harcourt, The Critique and Praxis of Rights, 92 U. Colo. L. Rev. 975, 980 (2021) (“the full ambition of abolition democracy also requires reimagining the economy from the ground up. It entails rethinking the profit motive and the circulation of wealth.”)

[29] Jocelyn Simonson, POLICE REFORM FROM A POWER LENS, 130 Yale L.J. 778, 783 (2021) (“By concentrating on power arrangements and a particular form of contestatory democracy, these movements open up police “reforms” to new institutional arrangements with the potential to facilitate the defunding and even abolition of policing as we know it.”).

[30] Marina Multhaup, Why the Labor Movement Should Fight for Prison Abolition, OnLabor (Mar. 4, 2021) (

[31] See, e.g., Ahmed A. White, The Crime of Economic Radicalism: Criminal Syndicalism Laws and the Industrial Workers of the World, 1917-1927, 85 Or. L. Rev. 649 (2006).

[32] Kate Andrias, Benjamin I. Sachs, Constructing Countervailing Power: Law and Organizing in an Era of Political Inequality, 130 Yale L.J. 546, 633 - 634 (2021).

[33] Benjamin Levin, What’s Wrong with Police Unions? 120 Colum. L. Rev. 1333, 1395 (2020).

[34] Michael Scimone, More to Lose Than Your Chains: Realizing the Ideals of the Thirteenth Amendment, 12 N.Y. City L. Rev. 175 (2008).

[35] Amna A. Akbar, Sameer M. Ashar, Jocelyn Simonson, Movement Law, 73 Stan. L. Rev. 821, 851 (2021).

[36] The opening epigraph, which provides one example of this important anti-carceral history, comes from Emma Goldman, Syndicalism: The Modern Menace to Capitalism in Mother Earth, Syndicalism: Its Theory and Practice (January 1913).

[37] Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Golden Gulag (2007) 242 (“What are the possibilities of nonreformist reform – of changes that, at the end of the day, unravel rather than widen the net of social control through criminalization?”) Abolitionist legal scholars have also been discussing non-reformist reform – see, e.g., Amna Akbar, Response, Demands for a Democratic Political Economy, Responding to Michael J. Klarman, The Degradation of American Democracy – And the Court 134 Harv. L. Rev. F. 90 (2020).

[38] Compare André Gorz, Strategy for Labor: A Radical Proposal (1964) and John Duda, A Conversation with Mariame Kaba, The Next System Project, (Nov. 9, 2017), ( (“Mainly if those reforms are, to use the term coined by André Gorz & popularized by Ruthie Gilmore here in the U.S., non-reformist-reforms. How do we think about reforms that don’t make it harder for us to dismantle the systems we are trying to abolish? That don’t make it harder to create new things? What are the reforms that are “non-reformist” that will help us keep moving towards the horizon of abolition?”).

[39] Peter Kropotkin, Chapter 8: Mutual Aid Amongst Ourselves (Continued), in Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (1902) (“And while a portion of the Press is prone to explain strikes by “intimidation,” those who have lived among strikers speak with admiration of the mutual aid and support which are constantly practised by them. Every one has heard of the colossal amount of work which was done by volunteer workers for organizing relief during the London dock-labourers’ strike; of the miners who, after having themselves been idle for many weeks, paid a levy of four shillings a week to the strike fund when they resumed work; of the miner widow who, during the Yorkshire labour war of 1894, brought her husband’s life-savings to the strike-fund; of the last loaf of bread being always shared with neighbours; of the Radstock miners, favoured with larger kitchen-gardens, who invited four hundred Bristol miners to take their share of cabbage and potatoes, and so on. All newspaper correspondents, during the great strike of miners in Yorkshire in 1894, knew heaps of such facts, although not all of them could report such “irrelevant” matters to their respective papers.”).

[40] The phrase “mutual aid” has been used to signify several concepts in legal academia; one popular usage is to describe scenarios or agreements in which “one (or many) emergency service providers share their resources and personnel with another provider, organization, or government in times of emergency.” Timothy M. Boucher, Cross-Border Emergency Response: Decreasing International Border Crossing Wait Times and Maintaining Heightened Security Vigilance in the Post 9/11 Era, 44 Syracuse J. Int’l L. & Com. 149, 150 (2016). This note intends to recouple two distinct usages of the phrase – that in labor law, per 29 U.S.C.A. § 157, and that in abolitionist and social anarchist praxis. It does not intend to comment on any other usages of “mutual aid” in legal practice.

In the context of this note, mutual aid, as a social movement tactic, is “a form of political participation in which people take responsibility for caring for one another and changing political conditions, not just through symbolic acts or putting pressure on their representatives in government but by actually building new social relations that are more survivable.” Dean Spade, Solidarity, Not Charity 142 (38) Soc. Text 131, 136 (2020). Dean Spade’s definition of mutual aid also appears via Big Door Brigade, a mutual aid group with which he is also affiliated. What is Mutual Aid? Big Door Brigade, ( Many definitions of anarchistic mutual aid exist. See, e.g., Debora Halbert, Two Faces of Disintermediation: Corporate Control or Accidental Anarchy, 2006 Mich. St. L. Rev. 83, 100 (2006) (“Mutual aid is a type of disintermediation that, instead of simply eliminating the middle strata of a system, deconstructs the entire system and replaces it with a different network of relationships. It is built upon the assumption made by social and communitarian anarchists that human beings are capable of self-government, that a state is not necessary and is even detrimental to the type of community that is possible if humans were left to themselves. It is a much more radical notion of disintermediation.”).

For a concise and comprehensive American history of the emergence and proliferation of mutual aid as a social movement tactic, please see Michael Haber, Covid-19 Mutual Aid, Anti-Authoritarian Activism, and the Law, 67 Loy. L. Rev. 61 (2020), particularly §I. As an example of the significance of the tactic to abolitionist organizing, Ground Game Los Angeles has mapped emergent mutual aid projects across the country and lists contact information for over 900 independent networks. Mutual Aid Hub, Town Hall Project, Ground Game LA (2022) ( For more specific examples and explanations of emergent mutual aid projects, see, e.g., Tim Donnelly, Mutual Aid Groups Reckon With the Future: ‘We Don’t Want This to Just Be a Fad,’ Eater (Sep. 2, 2020) (; Mia Mingus, Pods and Pod Mapping Worksheet, Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective (June 2016) (; Free Access to Movements Childcare Collective, Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, (; Chicago Childcare Collective | About, ( (; Mutual Aid Map and Directory, Chicago Community Kitchen (2022) ( (highlighting general availability of grocery distribution resources in Chicago).

[41] See generally Samuel B. Bacharach, Peter A. Bamberger, & William J. Sonnenstuhl, Mutual Aid and Union Renewal: Cycles of Logics of Action (2001).

[42] See generally id.

[43] Jackson Potter, What Other Unions Can Learn from the Historic Gains We Won in the Chicago Teachers Strike, In These Times: Labor (Nov. 26, 2019) (

[44] See id. (identifying major wins in the Chicago Teachers Union contract). For a description of the importance of movement resilience as a product of inter-movement relationships, see generally Zeynep Tufecki, Twitter and Tear Gas (2017).