Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date


Source Publication

McGill Law Journal/Revue de Droit de McGill. Volume 36, Number 4 (1991), p. 1481-1500.


conservative agenda and labour; Paul C. Weiler; understanding labour conflict; Wagner Act 1935; William Lyon Mackenzie King and labour


The decline of American unionism is now a well-documented phenomenon. Its causes and consequences, however, remain the subject of intense debate. Regardless of one’s view of this development, it clearly poses a challenge to the traditional techniques for the legal regulation of the employment relationship, and especially for state-sponsored collective bargaining which has been the centerpiece of American labour policy since the enactment of the Wagner Act in 1935. It is this crisis in American labour and employment law which Paul C. Weiler seeks to address in his new book, “Governing the Workplace: The Future of Labor and Employment Law”. In this paper, Weiler’s work is compared to another expert in labour relations, who stepped onto the American labour scene at a severe and critical juncture in its history: William Lyon Mackenzie King. In his book, “Industry and Humanity”, King articulated the principles upon which labour relations should be reconstructed. This paper explores first the common ideological terrain occupied by King and Weiler and shows how it drives them in the same direction as reformers. Then, the paper endeavors to show the inadequacy of that perspective as a way of understanding labour conflict and how it limits the options for reform quite narrowly. The apparently “liberal” reforms being suggested mask an extremely conservative agenda. Finally, the paper suggests an alternative analysis of the crisis of labour, on which is ignored by Weiler, which leads to very different political agendas than the ones he promotes.

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