In this new political history of the labor movement, Clayton Sinyai examines the relationship between labor activism and the American democratic tradition. Sinyai shows how America’s working people and union leaders debated the first questions of democratic theory—and in the process educated themselves about the rights and responsibilities of democratic citizenship.
In tracing the course of the American labor movement from the founding of the Knights of Labor in the 1870s to the 1968 presidential election and its aftermath, Sinyai explores the political dimensions of collective bargaining, the structures of unions and businesses, and labor’s relationships with political parties and other social movements. Schools of Democracy analyzes how labor activists wrestled with fundamental aspects of political philosophy and the development of American democracy, including majority rule versus individual liberty, the rule of law, and the qualifications required of citizens of a democracy. Offering a balanced assessment of mainstream leaders of American labor, from Samuel Gompers to George Meany, and their radical critics, including the Socialists and the Industrial Workers of the World, Sinyai provides an unusual and refreshing perspective on American labor history.