Andy Stern, one of the most visionary leaders in America today, has fought relentlessly to ensure that Americans' hard work is rewarded in today's hypercompetitive, globalized world. As the newsmaking president of the fastest-growing, most dynamic union in America, he has led the charge for modernizing the "house of labor" -- taking unions out of the past and into the twenty-first century. He has spearheaded the campaign against the "Wal-Marting" of jobs and has innovated transformative solutions to the daunting problems facing Americans, from job insecurity to runaway health care costs. In this powerful critique and call-to-arms, he offers a revelatory dissection of the gathering threats to our standard of living -- threats that our politicians have failed utterly to address -- and he puts forth a bold, unassailable plan for making vital reforms.
In his eye-opening diagnosis that makes the urgency of the threats vividly clear, Stern shows that Americans are contending with the most disruptive economic upheaval in the world economy since the Industrial Revolution. Yet, in the face of this daunting challenge, the American system simply isn't working well enough for most of us. Stern powerfully portrays how with the pace of globalization relentlessly quickening, the competitive pressures on our jobs and quality of life are heating up even more, especially as housing, health care, and oil prices skyrocket. While CEO salaries soar and business and the wealthy are handed plentiful tax shelters, the incomes of both white-collar and blue-collar workers stagnate, leaving most Americans struggling to pay off ever-escalating debt, instead of saving for retirement. The plain fact is that our system is out of whack, serving the interests of the top sliver of the most wealthy while putting the squeeze on the rest of us.
Meanwhile, our politicians irresponsibly sidestep the crucial solutions that we so desperately need in order to make sure Americans can move into the twenty-first century with their futures secure. As Stern so persuasively shows, it is time for bold thinking and creative solutions to overhaul a health care system in crisis; correct a tax system rigged in favor of business and the wealthy; revamp our inadequate retirement system; and make truly innovative improvements in education. He presents a set of course-correction reforms so compelling, simple, and achievable that readers will find themselves enraged that they haven't yet been enacted. Americans have a right to expect our government to work for us. Andy Stern shows how we can get things back on track to make sure it does.
The misleading title of this maverick, clearly argued account from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) president Stern elides the bulk of its contents: he bookends his story with the problem-globalization, a widening income gap and its concomitant crises-and its solutions, but sandwiched in between are several chapters of recent labor history from the vantage point of a key leader. Stern details how he led his union of janitors, home health workers, nurses and other laborers in a split from the AFL-CIO in 2005. According to Stern, this restructuring exemplifies the necessity of revitalizing unions for positive change in America. He's optimistic about the future of unionization in the U.S.: not only does he see membership in the organized labor movement increasing, he casts unions as a major force in implementing sweeping societal reforms. His proposals include altering the regressive Social Security tax to put more burden on high earners (i.e. removing the cap on wages taxed and ending the wage-tax-only), offering universal access to decent health care, implementing guaranteed retirement plans, providing equal access to the Internet and improving public education from pre-K on up. Free market fundamentalists will dismiss Stern's ideas and moderates may not be convinced by his idealism, but he provides an important point of view for organizers and labor historians.