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Cornell University Press
  • "If the Workers Took a Notion": The Right to Strike and American Political Development
  • Book
  • Josiah Bartlett Lambert
  • 2018
  • Published by: Cornell University Press
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Once a fundamental civic right, strikes are now constrained and contested. In an unusual and thought-provoking history, Josiah Bartlett Lambert shows how the ability to strike was transformed from a fundamental right that made the citizenship of working people possible into a conditional and commercialized function. Arguing that the executive branch, rather than the judicial branch, was initially responsible for the shift in attitudes about the necessity for strikes and that the rise of liberalism has contributed to the erosion of strikers' rights, Lambert analyzes this transformation in relation to American political thought. His narrative begins before the Civil War and takes the reader through the permanent striker replacement issue and the alienation of workplace-based collective action from community-based collective action during the 1960s.

"If the Workers Took a Notion" maps the connections among American political development, labor politics, and citizenship to support the claim that the right to strike ought to be a citizenship right and once was regarded as such. Lambert argues throughout that the right to strike must be protected. He challenges the current "law turn" in labor scholarship and takes into account the role of party alliances, administrative agencies, the military, and the rise of modern presidential powers.

Once a fundamental civic right, strikes are now constrained and contested. In an unusual and thought-provoking history, Josiah Bartlett Lambert shows how the ability to strike was transformed from a fundamental right that made the citizenship of working people possible into a conditional and commercialized function. Arguing that the executive branch, rather than the judicial branch, was initially responsible for the shift in attitudes about the necessity for strikes and that the rise of liberalism has contributed to the erosion of strikers' rights, Lambert analyzes this transformation in relation to American political thought. His narrative begins before the Civil War and takes the reader through the permanent striker replacement issue and the alienation of workplace-based collective action from community-based collective action during the 1960s. "If the Workers Took a Notion" maps the connections among American political development, labor politics, and citizenship to support the claim that the right to strike ought to be a citizenship right and once was regarded as such. Lambert argues throughout that the right to strike must be protected. He challenges the current "law turn" in labor scholarship and takes into account the role of party alliances, administrative agencies, the military, and the rise of modern presidential powers.

Table of Contents

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  1. Cover
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  1. Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication
  2. pp. i-vi
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  1. Contents
  2. pp. vii-viii
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  1. Acknowledgments
  2. pp. ix-xii
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  1. 1. "An inevitable and irresistible conflict": The Strange Case of the Disappearing American Strike
  2. pp. 1-19
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  1. 2. "Something of freedom is yet to come": The Early American Labor Movement and the Right to Strike
  2. pp. 20-42
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  1. 3. "A nation of mock citizens": The New American State and the Right to Strike, 1877–1895
  2. pp. 43-63
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  1. 4. "The very instruments of democracy are often used to oppress them": The Right to Strike during the Progressive Era
  2. pp. 64-83
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  1. 5. "Let the toilers assemble": The New Deal and the Modern Liberal Right to Strike
  2. pp. 84-104
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  1. 6. "Get down to the type of job you're supposed to be doing": World War II and the Labor Management Relations Act
  2. pp. 105-128
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  1. 7. "Let us stand with a greater determination": The National Labor Relations Act and the Bifurcation of Collective Action in the 1960s
  2. pp. 129-149
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  1. 8. "Playing hardball": Permanent Striker Replacements and the Limits of Industrial Justice
  2. pp. 150-166
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  1. 9. "We deplore strikes because of the inconvenience": Modern American Liberalism and the Right to Strike
  2. pp. 167-188
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  1. 10. "Something of slavery still remains": The Right to Strike as a Citizenship Right
  2. pp. 189-208
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  1. Notes
  2. pp. 209-250
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 251-260
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