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Which Side Are You on?: Trying to Be for Labor When It's Flat on Its Back Paperback – July 26, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 355 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The; Revised Edition edition (July 26, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565848861
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565848863
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #381,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Based on his experiences as a Chicago labor lawyer, Geoghegan contends persuasively that post-industrial Reaganomics have caused a widening rift between the working and professional middle classes. In related episodes, he demonstrates how the combined effects of steel mill closings, leveraged buyouts and Third World competitive labor have contributed to the decline of American organized labor. Even more tragic for the workers is their betrayal by international unions which, he asserts, are run by high-powered lawyers engaged in incessant arbitration; in cahoots with the Labor Department and, in some cases, with the mob--e.g., the Teamsters--labor lawyers are accused here of conspiracy to deprive the rank and file of the rights to organize, vote and air grievances freely. Moreover, Geoghegan declares, government regulations (the Taft-Hartley act, etc.) and a dilatory National Labor Relations Board have further weakened unionism, reducing it to the status of an ineffectual counterculture.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Geoghegan, a labor lawyer employed by Chicago area union locals, provides an interesting and at times incisive "insider's" view of organized labor. While his book is not the comprehensive analysis of the contemporary organized labor malaise that is so desperately needed, it will stimulate considerable reader interest. After all, the plight of American workers thrown on the trash heap of post-industrial capitalism is one of the truly tragic stories of the modern age, and even Geoghegan's periodic straining for effect and descents into maudlinism do not seriously thwart the impact of his narrative. Stressing the theme of the worker as victim, he recounts the way the courts, the politicians, the corporate interests, and all too often the union hierarchies have combined to undermine the health and well-being of the "working stiff." What he is really describing is the end of the period when American workers had at least a chance at getting a fair shake in the Ameri can economic contest.
- Norman Lederer, Thaddeus Stevens State Sch. of Technology, Lancaster, Pa.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Thomas Geoghegan is a practicing attorney and the author of several books, including the National Book Critics Circle Award finalist Which Side Are You On?, In America's Court, and See You in Court (all available from The New Press). He has written for The Nation, the New York Times, and Harper's and lives in Chicago.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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I only wish the author had written more books on the subject.
Dr. D. Watkins
This is an excellent book about labor unions which sides with labor from a fresh perspective.
"mdm608"
Far and away the best book I've ever read on the labor movement, *highly* recommended.
Steven Helmling

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Stephen R. Laniel on July 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
You know how some people say, "I don't believe in religion, but I believe in God"? Thomas Geoghegan doesn't necessarily believe in labor unions, but he believes in labor. Or maybe: he doesn't believe ultimate salvation is to be found in unions, but that there's no alternative to them for now, and that without them we're ... well, we're in the state we're in today, where workers are powerless and can be left unemployed and uninsured at any moment. A world without unions is a world where we're scared.

This is just not the world we ought to be living in. There is a better way and a better world, of course. We know that we can't get to this world on our own. On our own, we are isolated from the rest of those who are suffering. We are powerless so long as we are isolated.

It's virtually an axiom, then, that some form of collective resistance to limitlessly powerful corporations is necessary. We simply cannot do it on our own. It does not follow, however, that labor unions are the ideal form of that resistance. It also doesn't follow that government is the ideal form. But in their highly imperfect way, says Thomas Geoghegan, labor unions are far better than a world without them. He backs this up with story upon story about corporations absolutely crushing workers in the absence of any labor-union resistance.

Geoghegan himself is a labor lawyer who's been fighting the fight alongside labor unions for a quarter century or more. He's also often worked against them: he's sued the Teamsters repeatedly, in essence fighting for more union democracy. He's trying to get the unions that the employees deserve.

He's not had much luck fighting against them.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Josh Wilson on June 7, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I recently picked this up again. Both a great sketch of labor history and especially labor in the 80's, and also a kind of coming of age story of a man struggling with his idealism. For all that, it's absolutely fun to read - the tone is sharp and fast, and the author never takes himself too seriously. Reminds me of another favorite on a different topic, Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Sheena McGrath on March 14, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I first read this book about 10 years ago, and I was struck by both the author's despair, and the amount of work that needs to be done. He does a great job of convincing the reader that unions are relevant. He also made me see that they should be saved, from themselves, and from the incredibly restrictive U.S. labour laws.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Steven Helmling on September 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
Far and away the best book I've ever read on the labor movement, *highly* recommended. It's short, and beautifully written, combining:

1/ the author's 1960s coming-of-age story: his '60s romance was the labor movement rather than civil rights or antiwar; he went on to Harvard law school to do (and still does) labor law;

2/ a basic primer of US labor history, of which Americans (me included) are woefully (and not accidentally!) ignorant; and

3/ a gritty report from the trenches on how badly working people have been getting shafted in our lifetimes. (Surprise: a key villain is the allegedly "liberal" Warren Court.)

A must-read, both for the news it brings and for the power and effect of its writing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By lwalker on November 7, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I just finished this book and really enjoyed it. I am a law student who is very interested in labor law and this book provided me with a good overview of labor history and a realistic perspective on the fight that labor faces going forward. It also does all of that in an entertaining way. The author is very honest, which of course is necessary if a book is going to hold anyone's attention. The book is not a "rah rah labor" book. The author is not shy about showing how labor is sometimes its own worst enemy and the outlook isn't exactly bright. But, like MLK said, the truth shall set you free and anything worth having is worth fighting for. Read this book and get the scoop on labor in America.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dr. D. Watkins on December 10, 2012
Format: Paperback
Well written, honest, authentic, informative and fun to read.
Read this book and you'll learn a lot about labor, politics, life and the many idiosyncrasies of the author (and you'll like him all the more for it).
The best thing is, though the book may seem dated (set in 80's), it's actually an accurate predictor of our current state of affairs.
I only wish the author had written more books on the subject.
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By Edward J Kennedy on November 9, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are a long suffering fan of labor, this book's for you. Really well written and engaging account from a lawyer on the front lines of the labor movement.
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