Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

July 17, 2009



Calvin Mackenzie and Robert Weisbrot

Mackenzi and Weisbrot argue that the most powerful agents of change in the 1960s were those in the traditional seats of power, not the counter culture. By the time John F. Kennedy was elected in 1960, the political system that had prevailed for most of the century was based on crumbling economic, social and demographic realties: power had shifted out of the cities and into the suburbs, and though Democrats in Congress retained their long-held control, the Southern wing of the party was finally loosening its grip. Postwar prosperity led many Americans to believe there was really enough wealth to go around, and for once the Supreme Court aligned with the progressive spirit of the age. Following JFK's assassination, Johnson knew he had only a brief window of opportunity to push his liberal agenda before the forces of reaction would set in. The result was a burst in government initiatives-tough Civil Rights laws, new consumer protection, federal aid to education, and environmental reform, among others-that has rarely been matched in American history. The liberal hour of the 1960s passed as quickly as it began, but it left in its wake a vastly altered American landscape whose political echoes are still felt today. Mackenzie and Weisbrot address both the factors that led to a brief moment of accelerated change and the reasons the decade became an intermediary between the innocence and optimism of the post-war years and the cynicism and distrust of the era that followed.

Labor Struggle in the American Airline Industry

Liesl Miller Orenic

On the Ground charts labor relations in the airline industry, unraveling the story of how baggage handlers--classified as unskilled workers--built tense but mutually useful alliances with their skilled coworkers such as aircraft mechanics and made tremendous gains in wages and working conditions, even in the era of supposedly "complacent" labor in the 1950s and 1960s. Orenic explains how airline jobs on the ground were constructed, how workers chose among unions, and how federal labor policies as well as industry regulation both increased and hindered airline workers' bargaining power.


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