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Today, most Americans lack constitutional rights on the job. Instead of enjoying free speech or privacy, they can be fired for almost any reason or no reason at all. This book uses history to explain why. It takes readers back to the 1930s and 1940s when advocates across the political spectrum – labor leaders, civil rights advocates, and conservatives opposed to government regulation – set out to enshrine constitutional rights in the workplace. The book tells their interlocking stories of fighting for constitutional protections for American workers, recovers their surprising successes, explains their ultimate failure, and helps readers assess this outcome.Read more
- Challenges conventional understandings about the racial politics and legal strategies of American conservatives, the civil rights movement's commitment to working-class African Americans, and about where constitutional history gets made
- Shows conservatives in an overlooked alliance with African Americans in the struggle for equality, using lawsuits to soften their ultra-right image
- Demonstrates that civil rights advocates did not abandon black workers' constitutional claims in the 1950s as is currently thought
- Argues that a complete understanding of American constitutional history requires examining the work not only of judges but also of obscure bureaucrats and administrative agencies
Reviews & endorsements
"The Workplace Constitution from the New Deal to the New Right is both ambitious and important - it moves across time and among a variety of individuals, organizations, and government entities, and it utilizes a wide range of archival material - all of keen interest to historians, legal scholars, and political scientists alike. Lee’s formidable intelligence gives us new insights, as well as historical and historiographical surprises."
Risa L. Goluboff, John Allan Love Professor of Law and Justice Thurgood Marshall Distinguished Professor of Law, University of VirginiaSee more reviews
"Sophia Lee brilliantly pairs her analysis of the civil rights movement with the rise of the right-to-work movement and the 'union-avoidance' industry. She also matches her fine history of the state action theory with an equally persuasive argument that administrative agencies have been a fruitful source of constitutional visions and versions. This beautifully written book represents deep and broad research and entirely original analysis. I know of nothing like it."
Laura Kalman, University of California, Santa Barbara
"Sophia Lee's The Workplace Constitution from the New Deal to the New Right is one of the most insightful and provocative studies of the bifurcated matrix of laws and court rulings that govern the American work regime. Deploying a marvellous talent as narrative historian, Lee demonstrates that the attempt to construct a labor relations regime that simultaneously protects the rights of racial minorities proved an enormously vexing and contentious project, one standing close to the heart of American politics for more than half a century."
Nelson Lichtenstein, MacArthur Foundation Professor in History, University of California, Santa Barbara
"A superb and compelling account of the long-running quest for constitutional rights in the workplace since the 1930s. Relying on extensive archival research, Lee offers two intertwined legal stories that enrich but also complicate our vision of twentieth-century political history."
Jean-Christian Vinel, The American Historical Review
"A nuanced narrative history of 1930s–1980s campaigns to extend constitutional rights to private-sector workers both inside and outside labor unions, and to thereby create what Lee calls a 'workplace constitution' … provides a rich history of conservatives' legal theories of government power over the workplace - from the open shop movement to opposition to affirmative action … her focus on administrative agencies reframes histories of court decisions and extends the history of fair employment litigation well past the 1940s era …"
Trevor Griffey, The Journal of American History
"Lee’s magnificent book interweaves the histories of the civil rights and right-to-work movements … will certainly spark further inquiry by students and scholars of civil rights, labor, constitutional law, conservatism, and the administrative state."
Deborah Dinner, Law and History Review
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- Date Published: October 2014
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9781107613218
- length: 412 pages
- dimensions: 230 x 154 x 23 mm
- weight: 0.64kg
- contains: 21 b/w illus.
- availability: In stock
Table of Contents
Part I. Crafting the Workplace Constitutions in the New Deal 1930s and 1940s:
1. Liberals forge a workplace constitution in the courts
2. Agencies discover the liberal workplace constitution
3. Conservatives create a workplace constitution in the courts
Part II. Advancing the Workplace Constitutions in the Cold War 1950s:
4. Liberals test the workplace constitution in the courts
5. Agencies consider the liberal workplace constitution
6. Conservatives pursue the workplace constitution in the courts
Part III. Administering the Liberal Workplace Constitution in the Long 1960s:
7. Agencies recognize the liberal workplace constitution in the new frontier
8. The liberal workplace constitution on the air and the wires
9. The NLRB expands the liberal workplace constitution
Part IV. The Workplace Constitutions in the New Right 1970s and 1980s:
10. Conservatives reject the liberal workplace constitution
11. Liberals rethink their workplace constitution
12. Conservatives unite the workplace constitutions
13. The conservative workplace constitution divides the New Right coalition
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