Posted on December 4, 2013 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Stuart Elliott
As the year nears an end, it’s a good time for summing up and making lists. We thought our readers might interested in a wrap=-up of books that we reviewed in Talking Union over the last year. We stretched things a bit by including books discussed in the last half of 2012. As we looked over the list, we felt that there were a few 2013 books that also deserved to be mentioned in this post although the haven’t ‘been reviewed on Talking Union yet. We’ll start with these and follow, after the break, with the labor books reviewed on Talking Union.
If you order through the links to the unionized Powell’s books, a portion of your purchase will benefit DSA and Talking Union.
If we have missed a book feel free to add it in the comments section.
Not Yet Reviewed
Andrew Levison, The White Working Class Today
William P. Jones, The March on Washington
David Cogswell, Illustrated by C.M. Butzer Unions for Beginners
Steve Early, Save Our Unions: Dispatches from a Movement in Distress
Kari Lydersen, Mayor 1%: Rahm Emanuel and the Rise of Chicago’s 99% (more…)
Filed under: Book Reviews | 2 Comments »
Posted on December 4, 2013 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Steve Early
Randy Shaw’s Activist Handbook
is a book with legs. First published in the early 1990s, it has now been updated as a guide to “winning social change” in the new millennium. If you’re a long distance runner in any U.S. social movement–or trying to figure out how to become one–this is the training manual for you and your team.
The appearance of a second edition from University of California Press has given the Bay Area author and community organizer a chance to expand upon the case studies he utilized in the initial edition, adding sections about protest activity not yet stirring two decades ago. The eclectic mix of older and new material makes the information and advice that Shaw dispenses even more useful to organizers of all types. His latest Handbook examines “new strategies, tactics, issues, and grassroots campaigns, and revisits whether activists have learned from past mistakes.”
The ground covered includes fights for better housing and tenant rights, neighborhood preservation and safer cities, affordable higher education, fair treatment of immigrants and AIDS victims, “sweat-free” manufacturing, gay and lesbian rights. The author also analyzes, in very ecumenical fashion, many different arenas for political work, including state and local ballot initiatives, legislative lobbying, running for office, direct action, litigation, and media campaigns.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Organizing | Tagged: Randy Shaw, Activist's Handbook | 1 Comment »
Posted on November 29, 2013 by dsalaborblogmoderator
Down the Up Escalator: How the 99% Live in the Great Recession, by Barbara Garson. Random House, 2013. $26.95
Hundreds of “put a human face on the economic toll” stories appeared during the Great Recession. Many reporters chose middle-class protagonists—by which I mean, not working-class. They wrote about managers, professionals shocked by the notion that they could ever be let go, disoriented by their descent, stunned that no one wanted them.
That was the news: that not just working stiffs could get laid off. People like you, middle-class magazine reader, were not safe.
Some of Barbara Garson’s subjects are middle-class, too; a few are even rich; others are workers. They all had something before the 2008 recession—a job, a house, or savings—and they all lost that something. Down the Up Escalator is the story of how they coped—with their human faces, yes, and loss of face, and loss of nerve and unwarranted optimism.
But Garson also explains the whole securitized, derivatized implosion of the economy in a way that’s easy to follow and puts the blame where it belongs.
To publish in 2013 is a little late—others have done this explanation already—but if you were too shell-shocked to pay attention at the time, and if you want your economics leavened with an entertaining dose of humanity, Garson is your guide. (more…)
Filed under: Book Reviews, Economy | Tagged: 99 percent, Down the Up Escalator, Great Recession, How the 99% Live in the Great Recession | 2 Comments »
Posted on November 26, 2013 by dcampbell1
A review by Duane Campbell
The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration by David Bacon is a well written, well informed book that explains political and economic currents shaping the US immigration experience.
The U.S. public is engaged in a sustained and divisive debate over immigration. Unfortunately, at the same time , most U.S. do not recognize that U.S. economic policy, particularly NAFTA created many of the conditions that produce the very immigration of some 8 million people that many on the Right and the Tea Party so oppose.
The passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 accelerated a neo-liberal form of economic growth in Mexico that drove poor farmers, particularly in the indigenous south to lose their farms and their livelihood. In response young men, and increasingly the young women, made the dangerous trek to the U.S. in search of work and an income to feed their families and keep their families from losing their farms. (more…)
Filed under: Book Reviews, Fair Trade, Global organizing, Immigrant Workers, Solidarity | Tagged: Cananea, David Bacon, Mexican migration, Mexico, NAFTA, North American Free Trade Agreement, Smithfield Foods, United States | 1 Comment »
Posted on November 6, 2013 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Michael Hirsch
Review of The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013
This American life is a mess, argues George Packer in The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America. It’s a nation fraying, with core institutions from government and finance to housing, jobs and education dysfunctional or “unwound.”
Packer, as befits a New Yorker staff writer, is a sharp stylist with a keen eye. While he does pay homage to the American ideal of self-reinvention and upward mobility that existed imperfectly at best in the past, he focuses his seemingly infinite capacity for listening on bringing to life the stark inequalities of a society that is experiencing contrasts in wealth and poverty not seen since the late 19th century. It’s one in which billionaires and the homeless multiply while the proportion of middle-income families shrinks and where six of Sam Walton’s heirs have as much accumulated wealth as the United States’ bottom 30 percent.
His vision of an anomic, atomized America unfolds like a well-produced slideshow. Highlights include an insider’s view of K Street swinishness, its manufacturing of “grasstop” coalitions and how lobbyists on Capitol Hill not only grease politician’s palms but write legislation in the interest of no one but their own clients.
There’s also great reporting on the epidemic of robo-signing, mortgage and security fraud, bank failure, securities fraud and bankruptcy. His pointing to the collapse of federal regulations on bankers and traders that allowed for the Wall Street feeding frenzy is on target and a good introduction to the 2007-2008 collapse and its devastating consequences nationwide.
Taken singly, many of the chapters are brilliant, as is his coverage of the 2012 GOP convention and the ghost subdivisions and foreclosure wipeouts in Tampa, Florida. There’s Youngstown, Ohio’s shedding of 50,000 jobs (with a population of 150,000) and the vacating of 40 percent of its housing parcels in just 10 years. There’s also devastating takedowns of the gremlin-like Newt Gingrich, the preposterous Oprah Winfrey and the weaselly Robert Rubin matched with fitting portraits of new Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and writer Raymond Carver, named “the chronicler of blue-collar despair.” (more…)
Filed under: Book Reviews, Economy, Politics | Tagged: George Packer, The Unwinding | 1 Comment »
Posted on October 25, 2013 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Eric Lee
Back in 1993 I was asked to look into how unions were using computer networks and email.
The result was my 1996 book on the labour movement and the internet — and after that, LabourStart.
Twenty years on and I’ve been looking into how we in the trade union movement use the new communications tools — smartphones and tablets — and the result is a new book I’ve just co-authored with Jeremy Green, “Firefox OS for Activists“.
Firefox what? (more…)
Filed under: Book Reviews, Resources | Tagged: Eric Lee, Firefox OS, LabourStart | 1 Comment »
Posted on September 20, 2013 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Deborah Meier
Definitely go out and buy Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to Americas Public Schools by Diane Ravitch, which just been launched with proper publicity. She is a phenomenal woman—sending out a half-dozen e-mails a day, two books in the last decade, and traveling to speak throughout the USA. And…while she’s younger than me, she’s old enough to have rested on her laurels. Maybe it helps to change your mind, because my exhaustion comes (in part) from feeling it’s all been said before (including by me).
Reign of Error lays out step by step the relentless thirty year drive to either centralize the education of the young—on one hand—or divest it entirely into privatized hands on the other. Finally, the two sides have joined forces on a strategy that simultaneously does both. While this coalition has many old roots, in its current form it began with the fanfare around the publication of A Nation at Risk (1983). Ravitch was, at that time, a supporter of this bold statement that more or less accused America’s teachers and school boards of a plot to undermine American health and welfare of the international scene. We were, said the signers, at risk of becoming a second rate nation if we didn’t take this crisis seriously. I asked my colleague on the NBPTS, AFT leader Al Shanker, why he had signed on. He said it was a good strategy because only in a crisis is the nation willing to put the money into schooling needed to make it really first-rate. He said—as I recall (paraphrased), ‘It’s true our schools are not as bad as the report suggests, but we are entering a new period and they either have to change dramatically or what the report accuses them of will become true. We need a smarter citizenry.’ (more…)
Filed under: Book Reviews | Tagged: Diane Ravitch, Education, privatization | 1 Comment »
Posted on August 31, 2013 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Steve Early
In the run-up to their convention next month in Los Angeles, top AFL-CIO officials have welcomed closer ties with non-labor groups and associations of workers’ who lack bargaining rights. In an interview with USA Today this summer, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka claimed that formal partnerships with the Sierra Club and NAACP would soon be forthcoming. In a Wall Street Journal interview, he waxed enthusiastic about bringing a leading Hispanic civil-rights organization, the National Council of La Raza, into the house of labor as well (despite its controversial funding from the Walmart Foundation).
Trumka also told a conference of the Labor Research and Action Network in June that “we must rethink what it means for working people to have a collective voice and real power.” He urged the assembled academics and activists to provide him with some “fresh thinking and new ideas for a dynamic labor movement.” He announced that the federation would collect “a lot of ideas, try them, experiment with them and see which ones work.”
The AFL-CIO’s latest quest for “new ideas” was launched shortly after the country’s most durable community-labor coalition celebrated its first quarter century of grassroots organizing work. Formed in the late 1980s, Jobs with Justice (JwJ) is the subject of a timely new book, edited by JWJ supporter Eric Larson, from Providence, R.I. and with an introduction by Communications Workers of America (CWA) president Larry Cohen, a founding father of the group. (more…)
Filed under: 2013 AFL-CIO Convention, Book Reviews, Organizing | Tagged: AFL-CIO, Jobs with Justice, JwJ, Larry Cohen | 1 Comment »
Posted on August 4, 2013 by dsalaborblogmoderator
Reviewed by Bennett Baumer
Lettuce Wars: Ten Years of Work and Struggle in the Fields of California
By Bruce Neuberger Monthly Review Press, 2013
Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers
By Frank Bardacke Verso, 2011
The Union of Their Dreams
By Miriam Pawel Bloomsbury Press, 2009
When Cesar Chavez died in 1993, he was a cultural icon and progressive hero. Cast into poverty at a young age, he worked the fields as a youth before he went on to fuse his brand of Catholicism and grassroots organizing into the United Farm Workers, a union that sought to raise his Mexican farm laborer base out of poverty and into power. Chavez built a fighting union from the ground up — Si se puede! (“Yes we can!”) was its battle cry — but by the time of his death he left an organization gutted of its farm worker base, purged of its organizing core and tattered from relentless grower assaults.
Over the past few years a crop of books has reassessed the UFW and its leader. Previous works on the UFW tended towards hagiography, but the union is decades removed from being a force in the fields and newer scholarship seeks to understand what happened. Lettuce Wars by Bruce Neuburger is the most recent addition and compliments Trampling Out the Vintage, possibly the definitive work on the UFW.
Both Neuburger and Trampling Out the Vintage author Frank Bardacke come from the ’60s New Left antiwar, civil rights and campus free speech movements. Both also worked multiple years in the vegetable fields, stooped over alongside a largely Latino workforce, and both books contain vignettes of workers and their lives, language and struggles. Where Lettuce Wars is a lively memoir, Trampling Out the Vintage is a densely packed comprehensive history.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Labor History | 5 Comments »
Posted on August 1, 2013 by dsalaborblogmoderator
Hardhats, Hippies, and Hawks: The Vietnam Antiwar Movement as Myth and Memory by Penny Lewis Cornell U. Press, 2013
Reviewed by Michael Hirsch
A lot of books get published. Some are worth reading. Occasionally one comes along that is so complete, so thoughtful and so well-argued that not only does it move the discussion, it closes it. In Hardhats, Hippies, and Hawks: The Vietnam Antiwar Movement as Myth and Memory, City University of New York sociologist and labor educator Penny Lewis does that to a reigning myth — that the mass movement against the United States’ war in Southeast Asia comprised mainly spoiled college kids, and that the true, authentic blue-collar Americans backed the war with brio. That’s a slick line to propagate. Not only does an image like that of construction workers attacking protesters (as famously occurred on Wall Street in May 1970) justify foreign interventions and military spending, it stigmatizes dissenters as illegitimate and alien to the body politic. That grossly distorts real working class sentiment or the class composition of protesters, all to divide critics themselves.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Labor History | Tagged: and Hawks, Hardhats, Hippies, Vietnam War | 1 Comment »