An angry, disturbing look at American labor unions that examines the reasons they have so often failed their members and society generally.
Why have America’s unions lost so many members, not kept labor standards from declining and been unable to exercise real political influence in recent decades? Fitch, himself a union member, has a one-word answer: corruption. In great, occasionally numbing detail, he chronicles key events and characters that have shaped American unions from the end of the 19th century to the present. It’s a chronicle rife with bribery, theft, violence and betrayal, often of union members by union officials. Fitch focuses not only on criminal corruption but on nepotism and favoritism that help keep self-serving, incompetent union officials in power and foster feudal-like organizations in which sub-bosses owe their primary allegiance to the higher-ups. Such organizational structures, according to Fitch, have kept American unions inward-looking and ineffective when it comes to getting the kind of benefits available to all workers, union and non-union, one finds in Western Europe, where a more inclusive political unionism prevails. In his critique, Fitch finds no heroes. He knocks labor icons like Ron Carey and Andy Stern; finds serious fault with public as well as private unions; trashes would-be socialist reformers as ineffectual when not actually corrupted by the institutions they seek to reform; and mocks leftist intellectuals he believes are blinkered when it comes to the realities of American union behavior.
Though this book will probably tell you more than you really want or need to know about the malpractices and deficiencies of specific union locals, it boasts a slew of keen insights and stands as an important read for anyone who cares about the future of organized labor in America.