In the year 2000 the AFL-CIO announced a historic change in its position on immigration. Reversing a decades-old stance by labor, the federation declared that it would no longer press to reduce high immigration levels or call for rigorous enforcement of immigration laws. Instead, it now supports the repeal of sanctions imposed against employers who hire illegal immigrants as well as a general amnesty for most such workers. In this timely book, Vernon M. Briggs, Jr., challenges labor's recent about-face, charting the disastrous effects that immigration has had on union membership over the course of U.S. history.Briggs explores the close relationship between immigration and employment trends beginning in the 1780s. Combining the history of labor and of immigration in a new and innovative way, he establishes that over time unionism has thrived when the numbers of newcomers have decreased, and faltered when those figures have risen.Briggs argues convincingly that the labor movement cannot be revived unless the following steps are taken: immigration levels are reduced, admission categories changed, labor law reformed, and the enforcement of labor protection standards at the worksite enhanced. The survival of American unionism, he asserts, does not rest with the movement's becoming a partner of the pro-immigration lobby. For to do so, organized labor would have to abandon its legacy as the champion of the American worker.
"Briggs's book offers an excellent overview of US political and economic history. The author does an admirable job highlighting the controversies surrounding enactment of the several legislature measures aimed at restricting mass immigration in the US."
Stephen Blumenfeld, Victoria University of Wellington
The Journal of Industrial Relations
"Vernon Briggs weaves together the history of economic and political forces that drove American industry, the response of labor, and the counter-response of industry.... Briggs advocates strict control of illegal immigration by controlling the border, by inspecting worksites, by controlling documents. If the INS enforced laws, there would be no illegal immigrants for employers to manipulate or intimidate to prevent them from voting for union representation."
E. Paul Durrenberger, Pennsylvania State University
Anthropology of Work Review
"Briggs has written a powerful critique of U.S. immigration policy, which he says explains organized labor's decline in recent decades.... An informative and provocative book. In particular, for those who seek to understand labor's decline in recent decades (including historians, economists, and policy analysts) or those who wish to reverse this alarming trend, Briggs concluding suggestions regarding changes in immigration and labor law should be required reading."
Peter Cole, Western Illinois University
History: Review of New Books
"Briggs' book could not be more timely. In the 1990s a radically new creature has been emerging in American labor history—a pro-immigration trade union movement.... Briggs' book is an essential education for those who care about this issue and its implications for the country."
David Simcox, Center for Immigration Studies
The Social Contract
"Immigration and American Unionism is an economic history of the United States that explores the interactions between immigration, labor, and unions. Vernon Briggs is the nation's leading institutional labor economist, and this remarkable book provides a well-written and timely examination of one of the major public policy issues of the day."
Philip Martin, University of California, Davis
"The book is engagingly written and the overall thesis appears sound."
"The issue of how to deal with surges in immigrant workers, both documented and undocumented, continues to be fraught with controversy within the American labor movement, and this book is an excellent addition to the debate.... Briggs does an excellent job representing the conservative side in the debate over immigration policy."
Laurie Graham, Indiana University-Kokomo
"While unions in Europe have favored immigrants for some time, those in the United States have traditionally opposed increased immigration. This useful and engaging book is a strong work on the shared history of unions and immigration. As such, will appeal both to serious scholars and to a general readership."
B. Lindsay Lowell, Director of Research, Institute for the Study of International Migration