Civil Rights and the Right to Work


This is a book review of Sophia Lee, The Workplace Constitution: From the New Deal to the New Right. The book is a lively, well-written exploration of two movements, the civil rights movement and the right to work movement, that tried to constitutionalize the rights of workers in response to the New Deal's provision of monopoly power to labor unions. Lee also discusses some surprising commonalities and even synergies between the two movements.

This review considers the book in the broader context of labor history. Unlike much labor history, it is mercifully free of jargon and of ideological cant. The very fact that Lee treats the civil rights movement and the right-to-work movement as parallel and at times symbiotic "workplace constitution" movements itself demonstrates a welcome broadmindedness about what is significant in labor and constitutional history.