- Paperback: 355 pages
- Publisher: New Press, The; Revised Edition edition (July 26, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781565848863
- ISBN-13: 978-1565848863
- ASIN: 1565848861
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #514,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
Which Side Are You on?: Trying to Be for Labor When It's Flat on Its Back Paperback – July 26, 2004
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Imagine a Scott Fitzgerald who cares about Studs Lonigans; that's Geoghegan.
About the Author
Thomas Geoghegan's essays and commentary have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Nation, the New Republic, the New York Times, Slate, and the Washington Post, among other publications. His other books are The Secret Lives of Citizens and In America's Court. Geoghegan is a practicing attorney in Chicago.
Showing 1-8 of 14 reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
With friends like Tom Geoghegan, the union movement was bound to fail. Why this self-doubting guy should have become a labor lawyer is a complete mystery. He exhibits the same obsession with self that characterizes American culture. How can a collective organization, like a union flourish in a country where everyone, including most senior union executives, are only in it for themselves.
The American workers have been screwed royally (especially by the anti-union Wagner Act) by the aggressive sociopaths who are attracted to the obscene rewards of reaching senior management positions in American corporations.
The 66 page new afterword (added in 2004) is a complete waste of time, while the overall book is not worth anyone's time reading at all.
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. For a short time, Geoghegan's heart leapt for joy when Ron Carey was at the Teamsters' helm, but the Carey era ended quickly enough and James P. Hoffa (son of Jimmy Hoffa) took over.
As for fighting alongside them, that hasn't worked very well either. Unions are down to 10% or so of the working population. Not coincidentally (as any reader of Paul Krugman knows well), the Democratic party is in a shambles and has been for at least thirty years. The Democrats need the unions.
What makes this book so agonizing is Geoghegan's insistence that a few little changes would bring democracy to the unions, unions to the workers, and the Democratic party to power. One such change is a card-check system like the one Canada uses. Consequently, Canadian union membership has been consistently in the 30% range for at least a decade. When we dream of the better world that Canadians seem to inhabit, it's well to consider how they got there.
The fact that just over the border is a country not much different than ours, but whose policies could hardly be more different, gives the lie to the notion that unions have disappeared in the U.S. because of changing workplaces. Yes, we're now a service economy rather than an industrial economy. But so is Canada. Geoghegan dispenses with any number of commonplaces like this one.
In general, he spends the most time dismantling the idea that unions' disappearance is in some sense "natural." It's not. It has a lot to do with Republicans and with conservative courts. It has to do with Taft-Hartley. It has to do with one law after another that smashed unions into the ground. There was nothing natural about it.
This book doesn't give much in the way of solutions, but I'm not even sure that's its point. Merely getting people -- especially Democrats -- to recognize a problem is plenty. Getting them to recognize a human-created problem is better still. Along the way, Geoghegan is impossibly funny, chatty, and self-deprecating. While I can't quite call this book a "joy" -- it's too maddening for that -- I do submit that it's indispensible and should be on every American's bookshelf.
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.