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Solidarity for Sale: How Corruption Destroyed the Labor Movement and Undermined America's Promise Hardcover – Bargain Price, January 23, 2006

3.6 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With this passionate but meandering call for reform, union member and journalist Fitch attempts to expose the systemic corruption—the "private use of public office"—that he deems central to the history of American labor and its current ineffectuality. After two scattered and polemical introductory chapters that put the corruption of American labor unions in a global context, the book traces a century's worth of labor history, from the 1881 founding of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters to the mob-backed looting of the Mason Tenders pension fund in the 1990s. Fitch likens labor unions to fiefdoms and union leaders to warlords while comparing their level of corruption to that of the pre-Reformation Catholic Church. He implicates historical figures from early 20th-century AFL president Samuel Gompers and mid-century Teamster Jimmy Hoffa to Bill Clinton and Rudolph Giuliani, whom he censures for their coziness with unscrupulous union leaders. This sweeping condemnation, though provocative, suffers from the breadth of material and its diffuse thematic rather than chronological presentation. The book's structural flaws make for reading that often proves as frustrating as it is fascinating. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Nobody has written of trade unionism's fatal embrace with the underworld, and its own demons, more eloquently." -- Carl F. Horowitz, National Review, February 13, 2006

AAA slew of keen insights An important read for anyone who cares about the future of organized labor in America. -- Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (January 23, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 189162072X
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.9 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,628,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By I. Ness on March 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps the most well-researched work on labor in recent years, SOLIDARITY FOR SALE provides compelling detail and analysis that will help us understand the basis for much of organized labor's spiralling decline. Hopefully, this book will help provide a foundation for reforming the labor movement. One may draw many conclusions from this book, but we cannot deny that Fitch has paid careful attention to facts, conducted excellent archival research and interviews with key leaders. Fitch lays bare the evidence that a highly-bureaucratic and insular union structure is damaging prospects for increasing the power of the working class in the US. Though this examination of labor leadership is disturbing to many of us, it is a necessary step to recognize and understand, so that remedial action may be taken by working people. While government and corporate opposition is crucial in understanding the decline of the labor movement, workers retain strong support for inclusive, radical, and democratic unions. Despite this support for unions from working people, many of those in leadership positions have betrayed members and non-members, intensifying the obvious institutional problems organized labor now faces.

SOLIDARITY FOR SALE should be amunition for workers and, if accepted and heeded by those that lead unions, will surely benefit the labor movement. SOLIDARITY FOR SALE represents solid investigative reporting that we should all read as part of the effort to reform labor law, restructure unions, and mobilize workers striving to improve their collective conditions. Fitch writes from the perspective of workers--compassionately seeking a solution that will lead to more accountable and strong labor unions. Do not be fooled by those that disparage this book as anti-union.
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Format: Hardcover
This book, Solidarity For Sale, is right on.

Mr. Fitch has provided us with a great body of work, research and insights into the history and troubles of the labor movement. He has helped define and clarify some of the questions that have bothered me for years.

From my personal experience as a reformer in a mob dominated union and as a member of the Laborers Union of North America (LIUNA) for over 30 years, the truths of this book rings forth on every page.

Mr. Fitch has stepped forward with a passion and courage of thought to speak of the "Mokita" that we all know about but do not speak of. The corruption of the AFL-CIO and how it came to be.

This is a book that should be read by every thinking member of organized labor, reformers and those who would like to join us.

It deserves its place of prominence on the number 1 site for laborers. I endorse this book and I would like to thank Robert Fitch for spending the precious hours of his life writing it.

Chris White

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Format: Hardcover
Based upon the title of the book and Fitch's opening chapter, one expects a coherent attempt to show that corruption is endemic to the entire labor movement and has resulted in its destruction. Instead, this book reads like a collection of short articles about some of the worst abuses in labor, without developing a coherent theory until the final chapter, which is short and without factual support.

Fitch begins his work by tracing corrupt practices in the beginning of the 20th century, particularly in New York and Chicago. He then provides a number of anecdotes about how the mob or corrupt leadership has controlled or destroyed various locals in the Teamsters, UNITE-HERE (garment workers), LIUNA (laborers) and AFSCME-in New York City. However, Fitch's sensational examples fail to tie in to anything close to a theory. Moreover, Fitch doesn't balance his work by demonstrating what is working or showing how his argument stands against his grudging admission that the overwhelming majority of International Unions and Locals are free from corruption (he admits as much when he discusses the Teamsters). Moreover, Fitch offers nothing new with respect to solutions, except that his suggestion that the closed shop should be abolished and all members should pay dues voluntarily, in the matter of the French system-collection of stamps. He fails to explain why this form of volunteerism hasn't taken hold among members in open shop states who are happy to receive the benefits of collective bargaining without paying for them. Ultimately, while Fitch's sensational stories are easy to read and it is easy for those with no union experience to extrapolate these experiences to an entire movement, the end result is misleading, shrill and anti-union.
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Format: Hardcover
Bob Fitch's recent book, Solidarity for Sale, is a must read for anyone seriously interested in understanding the U.S. labor movement. Most of the focus of the book is on various forms of union corruption, a subject that is rarely discussed within the labor movement itself.

Although most trade union leaders are aware of corruption in their own and other unions, they are almost never willing to do anything to do anything about it, even if they are themselves honest. Bob Fitch provides a useful explanation as to why this is the case. Given that many of the same leaders will fight for the rights of working people at home and abroad, it is troubling that so many look the other way when their own institutions are the subject.

Fitch discusses some of the more extreme examples of corruption. Most union activists could add their own stories to his list. However, few would be willing to tell the stories publicly, because to do so would subject them to attack. In 1983 or 1984, for example, the Empire State College Labor Studies program was an organizer, along with some other labor studies programs of a conference on the labor movement. One panel at that conference touched on the subject of union corruption. That session was very lively with numerous participants telling about their own experiences with corrupt union leaders. As a result of that panel, several unions threatened to pull their students out of Empire State. To keep the students, Empire State fired those panelists who were adjunct faculty members instead.
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