Which Side Are You On?: Trying to Be for Labor When It's Flat on Its Back

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The comic, poignant, one-of-a-kind book that "reads like an enthralling novel" (Studs Terkel).

When it first appeared in hardcover, Which Side Are You On? received widespread critical accolades, and was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction. In this new paperback edition, Thomas Geoghegan has updated his eloquent plea for the relevance of organized labor in America with an afterword covering the labor movement ...

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Overview

The comic, poignant, one-of-a-kind book that "reads like an enthralling novel" (Studs Terkel).

When it first appeared in hardcover, Which Side Are You On? received widespread critical accolades, and was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction. In this new paperback edition, Thomas Geoghegan has updated his eloquent plea for the relevance of organized labor in America with an afterword covering the labor movement through the 1990s.

A funny, sharp, unsentimental career memoir, Which Side Are You On? pairs a compelling history of the rise and near-fall of labor in the United States with an idealist's disgruntled exercise in self-evaluation. Writing with the honesty of an embattled veteran still hoping for the best, Geoghegan offers an entertaining, accessible, and literary introduction to the labor movement, as well as an indispensable touchstone for anyone whose hopes have run up against the unaccommodating facts on the ground. Wry and inspiring, Which Side Are You On? is the ideal book for anyone who has ever woken up and realized, "You must change your life."

Author Biography: 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.

Tom Geoghegan was at Harvard Law School when he had his first brush with organized labor, as dissident coal miners sought to wrest their union from the grip of a corrupt leadership. He emerged with a firm commitment to the worker--and a keen eye for the ironies of his chosen career. Now he creates a portrait of labor under siege in the 1980s.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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. (Aug.)
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452268913
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/1/1992
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.02 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Solidarity 3
2 Mountains of the moon 9
3 Before the lean years 40
4 In the heart of basic steel 59
5 Always bring a crowd 84
6 Rank and file 122
7 In the cage 137
8 Officers and lawyers 161
9 Life in the theater 182
10 Free trade 204
11 Bread and wine 231
12 Citizens 251
13 To the Medinah temple 276
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