QUESTION: Radical Unionism/ Debtors Unionism

question / pregunta: 

Does anyone know of any articles written about Debtor's Unionism? What I mean by a Debtor's Union are people getting together to collectively resist paying similar or different types of debt. I'm interested because there seems to be some validity in this structure and Google is not much help on this topic. Thanks:)


Answer posted by:
jim miller

Google web search gets limited results, even for the exact phrases in quotes. It may be worth looking at all 250 hits (25 screens) for the search: "debtors unions", but I would tend to look first at the 6 results for: "debtors unions" site:edu or the 11 for: "debtors unions" site:gov often works better than Google's site:gov limiter, because it searches STATE as well as federal websites and documents - many of which may still have older domains such as,,, etc. But it gets only one result for: "debtors unions". Omitting the quotes gets many thousands, and using advanced search to limit that to just title words seems to get unreliable results. Google's 18 results for: "debtors union" site:edu are worth a very quick browse, but they include a few "...and Jane Doe, debtors; Union Bank...., plaintiff..." etc. Google's 7 results for: "debtors union" site:gov are virtually all legal documents mentioning a debtor company's union employees in a bankruptcy proceeding, for example.

Even Google Scholar has scant help in its 7 results for: "debtors unions", possibly because it does not search much full text from commercial journal articles, but usually just the abstracts and titles of those articles. If you are near a large public university, you can almost always get free guest access to databases and journals on site. A very few of the largest public libraries may have academic full text databases such as Academic Search Premier (Ebsco), or maybe even JSTOR, even offering remote password access to library card holders.

Full text searching can be greatly improved by using "proximity search", to specify that words or phrases must be within a limited number of words of each other - at least in one place in each article. Academic Search (Ebsco) defaults to a search of title, author, subject, abstract, and journal title. You can try phrases such as: "debtors unions", "debtors associations", "organizing debtors", to see if they get relevant results. If not, you can "select a field" TX-All Text, which often gets far too many hits for those same phrases. Ebsco Proximity search uses N for either word first, W for first word first. You can try TX-All Text searches such as "debtors unions" n10 history, or even use truncation: union* n3 debtor* n10 organiz* - to get variants such as unionization, organizing, etc.

JSTOR defaults to full text, and proximity search is essential, in those often very long scholarly articles. Its advanced search offers limiting to title or abstract, but be aware that JSTOR has VERY few abstracts and no subject headings. Full text search is often your best bet: the proximity looks like: "debtors unions history"~30 , which would try to find all 3 words within 30 words of each other. I have not found that the * truncation is reliable in JSTOR - especially inside phrases in quotes. Ebsco is far more consistent in allowing it, unlike Google, which tries to find word variants and does NOT work with truncation.

Answer posted by:
jim miller

Following up on those commercial databases, Academic Search Premier gets only 4 articles for the search: "debtor* union*", even when you "select a field" TX-All Text. That * truncation includes variant phrases such as: debtor unions, debtors union, debtors unionized, etc. But a fairly wide "proximity search" might help locate a few relevant articles that are well hidden among articles that may be very broadly indexed under such things as protest movements, activism, etc. For example, Academic Search Premier gets 89 articles for the TX All Text search: Debtor* n10 union*. The vast majority of these mention Union Bank...., European Union...., etc. But record no. 7 is:

Occupy 2.0: Strike Debt. Full Text Available. By: TAYLOR, ASTRA. Nation. 9/24/2012, Vol. 295 Issue 13, p17-20. 3p.Subjects: OCCUPY protest movement; PROTEST movements; DEBT; STUDENT loans; COLLEGE costs; CONSUMER credit; FORECLOSURE; PUBLIC debts; DEBT cancellation; UNITED States; Consumer Lending; Public Finance Activities. Database: Academic Search Premier

Limiting to "scholarly/peer reviewed" gets only 53 articles, and there seem to be very few talking about debtor's unions. But no. 15 is:

The Struggle for Public Education in California: Coming Due: Accounting for Debt, Counting on Crisis. Images Authors: McClanahan, Annie Source: South Atlantic Quarterly; Spring2011, Vol. 110 Issue 2, p539-545, 7p, 1 Graph

This article does discuss UC Berkeley student protests against higher tuition and student debt. Another possible TX All text search is: Debtor* n5 strike* (17 articles, 12 of them peer reviewed), or Debtor* n5 protest* (15, 9 peer rev)

JSTOR is available at most academic and at a few large public libraries. But it comes in many different sized "packages", so my searches only show what it finds at U of Maryland. The proximity search: "debtors unions"~5 gets 10 articles, where those words are within 5 words of each other somewhere in each article. "Debtors strikes"~5 gets 6. But JSTOR articles can be 15-20 or more pages long, and it usually does NOT link to "pages with your search terms". It can be very time consuming to look for relevant information, but the trade-off is that JSTOR does have very scholarly articles.

Proquest Dissertations & Theses Fulltext might give some leads. By default it searches full text, and the proximity search: Debtor* w/5 strike* gets 3 results. A good alternative in Proquest is their "all fields, no full text" search, in advanced search, where: Debtor* and (strike* or striking or protest*) gets 10 results, and you can look at the citation and abstract without having to plow through maybe a 100+ page dissertation.