It is an honor to be a part of this symposium, but I have to admit that I am a little embarrassed by its title. I have certainly never thought of myself as a “public intellectual.” And to whatever limited extent I may fit the definition the organizers had in mind, so do many others of much greater distinction. Even in my own little corner of labor and employment law—union democracy law—I share the public intellectual podium, figuratively at least, with Alan Hyde of Rutgers Law School, and with my law school classmate, Chicago labor lawyer and writer, Tom Geoghegan, among others.
Nevertheless, I appreciate the opportunity to write about the cause to which I have devoted a good part of my career both inside and outside the halls of academia: the struggle to make the labor movement more democratic and more responsive to its members. After a brief explanation of how I became involved in the union democracy movement, this article will highlight some of the reasons why I believe union democracy is such an important cause. It will then explain why the role of public intellectuals is particularly important for the cause of union democracy, and will conclude with a description of some of the ways my work in the area of union democracy has enhanced my teaching and scholarship. . . .