defending organized labor

Cover00Michael Kazin at Bookforum:

Undaunted, he continues to roll his little stone of hope uphill with vigor and wit, albeit with louder huffs of exasperation. His new book, despite its title, focuses more on what he views as the three prime culprits in the making of our unequal America—its corporate autocracy, its schools, and its austerity economics—than on the travails of the unions themselves. Labor may be the one thing that can save us, but to do so, argues Geoghegan, it will have to emerge from its defensive crouch and speak out for the good of society as a whole. To become a savior rather than a victim, it will also need a great deal of help from a worker-friendly Democratic Party that does not yet exist. “Like it or not,” he writes sadly, “the word ‘union’ brings up too many mixed feelings. I hope one day we can detoxify the word.”

In the meantime, Geoghegan has an ambitious agenda—or, better, wish list—for labor and its progressive friends to pursue. First, they should demand that workers have a degree of power in deciding how their companies are run and for what ends. He still sees the German system of “co-determination,” in which labor-elected officials sit on corporate boards of directors, as a model. But he also hails the unionized nurses in our country, who go on strike not solely for more pay but to force hospital administrators to hire enough staff to ensure that patients get the care they need.

more here.