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Book Review of In Labor's Cause - Essay Example

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Book Review of In Labor's Cause

In his book "In Labor's Law "Brody's use of comparative analysis and his careful delineation of the unenviable choices facing workers are an important contribution to the rekindled debate over American exceptionalism. The opening two essays (Time and Work during American Industrialism and The Course of American Politics) demonstrate the strengths of the collection well. From the demands of Philadelphia carpenters in 1791 for the ten hour day "They will work from six to six-how absurd!", so remarked the Federal Gazette, for the workers' first collective demand for the ten hour day, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with two hours off for breakfast and dinner for which there is a record in American history, to the precipitous decline of the UMWA in the 1970s, Brody applies his wit and intelligence to the peculiarities of American labor developments.
These extended essays discuss central questions in the field of labor rights from the colonial period to the present. A pioneer in the evolution of the new labor history David Brody has remained loyal to the traditional consents of labor scholarship-the trade union as an institution, the worker-employer relationship, the role of the state- while displaying a keen sensitivity to the broad historical and cultural context in which these developments occurred. In the third and forth essay Brody discusses about shaping the labor movement and the market unionism in America. Brody writes about the U.S. Communist party and their vital role played in organizing workers at a variety of such large firms as General Electric, Allis-Chalmers, and Ford and in the subways of New York City and on the docks of the Pacific Coast. Most Reds stuck to the hard business of building unions for representing workers' rights, and in this process, distinguished themselves as advocates of racial and gender equality in a movement that had historically known neither. The influence of Communists in unions became a flagrant liability only with the onset of the Cold War, and it bred mistrust among rank-and-filers during World War II when Communist party labor officials became the most stalwart enforcers of the no-strike pledge. That certainly did not mean that labor leaders ought to have endorsed and abetted nearly every pillar of U.S. policy during the Cold War. Workers were far better off in the capitalist welfare states of Western Europe than in the Socialist beggar regimes of the Soviet block, and U.S. labor officials played a small but useful part in ensuring that the former did not succumb to the latter. But the labor hierarchy under George Meany and his disciples spent far too much time and prestige on even the more defensible aspects of their foreign policy while labors strength at home slowly eroded. And their covert actions in the Third World all but destroyed the idealistic, democratic reputation American unionism had build up both abroad and at home during its glory days of the 1930s and 1940s. One result was that few liberal or radical activists in the swelling movements of the 1960s took seriously organized labor's claims that it was an agent of social change. For the first time in history ...Show more


Professor David Brody is affiliated with the Institute of Industrial Relations (IIR) at the University of California, Berkeley. Brody's research focuses on the American labor movement and American history. Brody is credited with founding the field of "new labor history" in North America which examined working class culture rather than simply workers' organizations as a source of history…
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Book Review of In Labors Cause essay example
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