When Wisconsin governor Scott Walker threatened the collective bargaining rights of the state’s public sector employees in early 2011, the massive protests that erupted inresponse put the labor movement back on the nation’s front pages. It was a fleeting reminder of a not-so-distant past when the labor question”and the power of organized laborwas part and parcel of a century-long struggle for justice and equality in America.
Now, on the heels of the expansive Occupy Wall Street movement and midterm election outcomes that are encouraging for the labor movement, the lessons of history are a vital handhold for the thousands of activists and citizens everywhere who sense that something has gone terribly wrong. This pithy and accessible volume provides readers with an understanding of the history that is directly relevant to the economic and political crises working people face today, and points the way to a revitalized twenty-first-century labor movement.
With original contributions from leading labor historians, social critics, and activists, Labor Rising makes crucial connections between the past and present, and then looks forward, asking how we might imagine a different future for all Americans.
In an era when workers are in desperate straits, labor historians Katz (All Together Different) and Greenwald offer a passionate and thought-provoking collection of original essays that focuses on the prospects for empowering labor in the U.S. As the activists, professors, and social critics who contributed to this collection note, U.S. workers haven t had a real raise since 1979; their unions are weak and fractured, and according to recent estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 30% of all Americans work contingently as contractors, consultants, day laborers, or are self-employed. Some essays highlight the labor successes of the past to draw lessons for the future, such as how in the 1920s in a similar period of union decline, the Jewish-led International Ladies Garment Workers Union built one of the most influential unions of the mid-20th century by promoting multiculturalism through labor education. With such topics as how Wal-Mart transformed the labor market, the need to embrace green jobs, and the potential for reframing labor rights as a moral issue on college campuses, this cogent, varied, and accessible collection has much to offer union leaders, social advocates, and all those curious about the future of the labor movement.