What Unions No Longer Do

To commemorate Labor Day, we look at the connection between the decline of unions and the rise of income inequality in the US

What Unions No Longer Do

Rosenfeld, Jake. Harvard, 2014
279p bibl index, 9780674725119 $39.95

What Unions No Longer Do book cover. Fist holding a picket sign with book title.

In a landmark study of the U.S. labor movement, Rosenfeld (sociology, Univ. of Washington) updates Freeman and Medoff’s What Do Unions Do? (1984), concluding that many of today’s economic problems can be traced to the decline of unions. In Rosenfeld’s analysis, income equality, racial justice, and broader political engagement went hand in hand with the rise of unions through the 1950s–and then reversed course when unions declined. While such observations are not new, Rosenfeld adds original data and subtle analysis, much of it based on his own research. Readers learn about the disproportionate impact of union decline on African Americans, as well as the mixed results in organizing unions for Hispanic immigrant workers. Rosenfeld asserts that a consequence of labor’s decline is that unions are no longer instrumental in combating inequality in the US economy and politics. General readers will appreciate Rosenfeld’s lucid summary of labor history and debates about the impact of unions. Academic researchers from the social sciences will benefit from the author’s clear exposition of his empirical studies, supplemented by an extensive data appendix. This book is vital for academic libraries.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above.
M. H. Maier, Glendale Community College
Interdisciplinary Subjects: African and African American Studies
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – Economics
Choice Issue: Jun 2014

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