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The Right and Labor in AmericaThe Right and Labor in America

Politics, Ideology, and Imagination

Edited by Nelson Lichtenstein and Elizabeth Tandy Shermer

Narrated by Paula Faye Leinweber

Available from Audible

Book published by University of Pennsylvania Press

The legislative attack on public sector unionism that gave rise to the uproar in Wisconsin and other union strongholds in 2011 was not just a reaction to the contemporary economic difficulties faced by the government. Rather, it was the result of a longstanding political and ideological hostility to the very idea of trade unionism put forward by a conservative movement whose roots go as far back as the Haymarket Riot of 1886. The controversy in Madison and other state capitals reveals that labor's status and power has always been at the core of American conservatism, today as well as a century ago.

The Right and Labor in America explores the multifaceted history and range of conservative hostility toward unionism, opening the door to a fascinating set of individuals, movements, and institutions that help explain why, in much of the popular imagination, union leaders are always "bosses" and trade union organizers are nothing short of "thugs." The contributors to this volume explore conservative thought about unions, in particular the ideological impulses, rhetorical strategies, and political efforts that conservatives have deployed to challenge unions as a force in U.S. economic and political life over the century. Among the many contemporary books on American parties, personalities, and elections that try to explain why political disputes are so divisive, this collection of original and innovative essays is essential reading.

Nelson Lichtenstein is MacArthur Foundation Chair in History at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the editor of American Capitalism: Social Thought and Political Economy in the Twentieth Century.

Elizabeth Tandy Shermer teaches history at Loyola University Chicago and is author of Sunbelt Capitalism: Phoenix and the Transformation of American Politic.


“Analyzing the place of organized labor in the history of American conservatism, The Right and Labor in America demonstrates that the antiunion conviction that recently buried the 2009 Employee Free Choice Act and laid siege to public-employee unions has been present in American conservatism since corporate capitalism emerged.”

Journal of American History

“This volume makes a major contribution to a growing body of work on the origins of modern conservatism and the rise of the New Right. It vividly demonstrates that if antiunionism did not assume the same significance as antitaxation or Christian fundamentalism, it proved to be significant in its own right. Future scholars will have to pay heed.”

—Bruce Laurie, author of The Rise of Conservatism in America, 1945-2000

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