Laboring for Freedom: A New Look at the History of Labor in America

By Daniel Jacoby | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
"Rights" of Passage

The first [issue] was whether it [the 1946 Full Employment Bill] made sense to declare the existence of a right to a job or to employment, as the proponents of the original bill wished. On this question there was a good deal of logic chopping, with philosophic analyses of the rights of man, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. But it was clear as soon as the issue was raised that, although some people had an affection for the "rights" language, no one seriously meant to endow individuals with a legally enforceable right to jobs.

-- Herbert Stein, The Fiscal Revolution

In the aftermath of World War II, sports, entertainment, and politics combined in an unlikely conspiracy to remind America that the conditions of freedom facing labor had not been perfected. Events in each arena signaled tensions that would dominate American life for the next thirty years. In baseball, the death of Josh Gibson and the hiring of Jackie Robinson called attention to the fictions in liberty of contract. In film, the contempt citations of the Hollywood Ten demonstrated that what liberty of contract we had was very clearly dependent upon government patronage. And finally, in Congress, politicians hemmed in their patronage toward labor, first by rejecting a national commitment to full employment as a right, and second by trimming back organized labor's collective bargaining rights. First these issues are explored and then their interconnections and implications are analyzed in this chapter.


Baseball and Discrimination

It is a terrible irony that Josh Gibson should die in 1947 as that was the year when Jackie Robinson was hired by the Dodgers. Both men were African Americans, yet one of them would achieve national fame and fortune where the other was to remain virtually unrecognized. Gibson hit seventy-five home runs in the single season of 1931, more home runs than the records set by Roger

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Laboring for Freedom: A New Look at the History of Labor in America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Prologue 3
  • Part I - Independence or Contract 11
  • Chapter 1 - Republican Soil 13
  • Chapter 2 - Contracting Liberties 33
  • Part II - Illusory Freedoms 53
  • Chapter 3 - The Properties of Labor 55
  • Chapter 4 - A Skillful Control Managing the Labor Process 68
  • Chapter 5 - Incorporating Paternalism 84
  • Chapter 6 - Free Education 98
  • Part III - New Deals and Old Ideals 115
  • Chapter 7 - Union Compromise 117
  • Chapter 8 - Rights of Passage 130
  • Chapter 9 - Playing the Global Piano 149
  • Epilogue - Memories and Challenges 166
  • Notes 169
  • Bibliography 185
  • Index 195
  • About the Author 211
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