Which Side Are You On? Critical Essays

Thomas Geoghegan

Which Side Are You On?

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Thomas Geoghegan, a career labor lawyer in his early forties, has a problem. Mind you, Geoghegan is not one of those well-paid union-slayers employed by corporate America. Despite substantial loss of income, he remains on the side of “the little guy,” whether that be a union under siege from management or rank-and-file union members under siege from their union. Geoghegan’s problem begins with the fact that he seems to be fighting for a lost cause. Union membership is in decline with no sign of an imminent countertrend. Moreover, the recognized leaders of organized labor are out of touch with new economic and political realities. As a result they rely on counterproductive strategies in their quest for survival.

Geoghegan’s problem goes deeper than this, however. He knows that organized labor has always fallen short of its best democratic and communitarian ideals. Unions, for the most part, were and are run undemocratically. They also have become depressingly bureaucratized. Thus, rank-and-file union members suffer a double dose of powerlessness.

Finally, Geoghegan is not sure of his own commitment. He has seen how corrupt unions can (and, perhaps, must inevitably) become. Moreover, though he sacrifices income, he himself is part of a privileged class getting along quite nicely while deindustrialization and deunionization pull the rug from beneath working-class America.

In WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON? (the title comes from an old...

(The entire section is 405 words.)