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The Workplace Constitution from the New Deal to the New Right


Part of Studies in Legal History

  • Date Published: January 2015
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107613218

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About the Authors
  • 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.

    • 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
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    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 Virginia

    '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

    'A gripping and richly illuminating history of the passionate and partly successful post-New Deal litigation battles to expand workers' constitutional rights and the scope of state action in the workplace.' Cynthia Estlund, Texas Law Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2015
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107613218
    • length: 412 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 154 x 23 mm
    • weight: 0.58kg
    • 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

  • Author

    Sophia Z. Lee, University of Pennsylvania Law School
    Sophia Z. Lee is Assistant Professor of Law and History at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Her work has appeared in the Virginia Law Review and Law and History Review. She earned her JD and her PhD in history from Yale University. Prior to joining the Penn Law faculty, she clerked for the Honorable Kimba M. Wood of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and served as a Samuel I. Golieb Fellow in Legal History at New York University School of Law. As a graduate student, she won awards and fellowships from the American Society for Legal History, the American Historical Association, and Yale Law School.

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