When unions undertake labor organizing campaigns, they often do
so from strong moral positions, contrasting workers' rights to
decent pay or better working conditions with the more venal
financial motives of management. But how does labor confront
management when management itself has moral legitimacy? In With
God on Our Side, Adam D. Reich tells the story of a five-year
campaign to unionize Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, a Catholic
hospital in California. Based on his own work as a volunteer
organizer with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU),
Reich explores how both union leaders and hospital leaders sought
to show they were upholding the Catholic "mission" of the hospital
against a market represented by the other. Ultimately, workers and
union leaders were able to reinterpret Catholic values in ways that
supported their efforts to organize.
More generally, Reich argues that unions must weave together
economic and cultural power in order to ensure their continued
relevancy in the postindustrial world. In addition to advocating
for workers' economic interests, unions must engage with workers'
emotional investments in their work, must contend with the kind of
moral authority that Santa Rosa Hospital leaders exerted to
dissuade workers from organizing, and must connect labor's project
to broader conceptions of the public good.
Subjects: Political Science
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