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Working and Living in the Shadow of Economic Fragility$
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Marion Crain and Michael Sherraden

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199988488

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199988488.001.0001

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Unionism, Law, and the Collective Struggle for Economic Justice

Unionism, Law, and the Collective Struggle for Economic Justice

(p.101) 6 Unionism, Law, and the Collective Struggle for Economic Justice
Working and Living in the Shadow of Economic Fragility

Marion G. Crain

Ken Matheny

Oxford University Press

Labor unions play a vital role in ensuring an equitable distribution of wealth by increasing the share of corporate profits that go to workers. The decline in union membership and influence in the United States thus correlates with rising income inequality. American unions have struggled to reconcile an agenda of economic justice for the working class with a more pragmatic orientation that emphasizes gains for groups of workers on a contract-by-contract basis. The dominance of the latter approach, compounded by legislative and judicial hostility to group action by workers, has resulted in the public perception of unions as self-interested special interest groups. Yet embedded within historical and modern American unionism is a powerful ideological impulse toward social and economic reform. That impulse is constrained, however, by an anachronistic labor law. A new legal regime that provides breathing space for evolving change agents is essential to restore labor’s countervailing power.

Keywords:   associational rights, business unionism, collective bargaining, countervailing power, federal preemption regime, inequality, labor unions, National Labor Relations Act, New Deal, profits

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