Freedom in the Workplace?

Freedom in the Workplace?

Gertrude Ezorsky
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 104
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  • Book Info
    Freedom in the Workplace?
    Book Description:

    Are workers in the United States free? Gertrude Ezorsky traces the severe limits placed on their freedom by illegal coercion against organizing unions and by low wage offers-barely enough to feed their families-that workers are pressured to accept. Older, sick workers are forced to stay in exhausting jobs to be eligible for pensions.

    Ezorsky shows that the notions of freedom held by most contemporary social scientists and philosophers are far too limited to account for the reality of the workplace, where a lack of freedom abounds. Students preparing to enter the workplace will be informed of that reality by reading this valuable book. In addition to her philosophical investigations Ezorsky provides valuable information on the specifics of labor relations, including employment at will; the NLRA and NLRB; OSHA; outsourcing; and the distinctions among closed, union, and agency shops. Readers interested in moral philosophy, applied ethics, and labor relations will find Ezorsky's arguments clear, forceful, and compelling.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5979-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    Most of us in the United States will spend our adult lives working for a living. During that time you will probably face important decisions. You might, for example, have to decide whether to accept a job offer or remain a full-time student. You might be conflicted about accepting a very low-paying service job just because it cannot be outsourced abroad. Or you might want to reject an offer because the employer does not provide health insurance or day care for your children. As an employee you might think twice about joining a labor union if your employer might fire...

  5. Chapter I The Obstacle Concept of Freedom
    (pp. 5-9)

    When is a person free or unfree to do (or not do) something?*

    Let us follow the lead of Gerald C. McCallum Jr. He suggested that a person is free to do something (or not) when there are no obstacles, such as constraints, restrictions, or interfering conditions, which prevent her from doing something (or not). A person is unfree when there are such obstacles. (Hereafter, I refer to this as the obstacle concept.)¹ If the obstacle is not mentioned, it is usually understood from the context.

    No one is simply free or unfree. One is free from an obstacle preventing...

  6. Chapter II Criticism of the Obstacle Concept of Freedom
    (pp. 10-14)

    Criticism of the obstacle concept of freedom might be made by two different kinds of philosophers, and I call their views Narrow Interference and Broad Interference.

    Suppose that an immigrant worker is locked in a van by a human agent, called a “coyote,” who is transporting him. The agent has made it physically impossible for the worker to leave. This kind of unfreedom in which a person makes it physically impossible for someone to do something is called restraint. According to Narrow Interference philosophers, restraint is the only kind of unfreedom.¹

    Suppose an employee worked over forty hours and is...

  7. Chapter III Social Forcing
    (pp. 15-39)

    We are all familiar with the claim that a person is forced to do something (or not). Most people are forced to work because they need their pay. But there are different kinds of forcing.

    Let us look at one type of forcing: restraint.

    Here is an actual case: poor young women worked over eighteen hours a day in a Los Angeles suburban sweatshop whose employer ordered the door locked and the yard encircled with a twelve-foot fence topped with razor wire. Hence, it was physically impossible for the women to leave. They had no choice but to remain inside.¹...

  8. Chapter IV Some Moral Issues of Proposal Forcing
    (pp. 40-48)

    Let us focus on the following coercion and forcing offer cases.

    Coercion: A worker, Jack, is ordered by his employer to transfer from one area of the plant to one that is dangerous. The employer threatens to reduce Jack to part-time work if he refuses the transfer. As a part-time employee, Jack would lose his health insurance, which he and his family need desperately. Hence, Jack has no choice but to accept the transfer as the lesser hardship.

    Forcing Offer: Unemployed Irene is forced to accept the offer of a job that is exhausting, low paying, and lacking in benefits...

  9. Chapter V Systemic Forcing
    (pp. 49-52)

    I have focused on social forcing cases in which a worker receives a proposal from a human being, an employer. But there are some cases, which I call systemic forcing, in which the worker receives no proposal yet, as in proposal forcing, is forced to choose a lesser over a greater evil. Human beings have created and maintain these systems, so humans are still significantly involved in these workers being forced to act. Hence, such forcing is social forcing.

    Let us look at examples of four such systems: day care, transportation, pension, and health care.¹

    Because adequate day care for...

  10. Chapter VI Criticism of Social Forcing Analysis
    (pp. 53-65)

    Recall the criticism of my analysis of freedom and unfreedom according to Narrow and Broad Interference views. Now we shall consider criticism of my social forcing analysis.

    First, let us review the essential differences between coercion and forcing offers.

    Coercion: Recall the employer who threatens Mark by ordering him to move to an awful assignment or be fired. Mark accepts the bad assignment as the lesser evil to unemployment.

    Forcing Offer: An employer offers the same kind of job in a dangerously polluted area to a destitute unemployed worker, Annie, who accepts the forcing offer as the lesser evil to...

  11. Appendix. Twentieth-Century U.S. Federal Labor Law
    (pp. 66-77)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 78-86)
  13. Index
    (pp. 87-92)