Tuesday, January 15, 2013

From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend: A Short, Illustrated History of Labor in the United States

Hi All,

I have been asked a number of times of late to suggest books for brothers and sisters interested in learning more about the history of the American labor movement. Questions about U.S. immigration policy, NAFTA, etc have also come up with increasing frequency. There are many great books to choose from, here are two of my favorites.

For those interested in a simple, straight forward, objective view of the history of organized labor in these United States of America, I suggest:

"Management's perpetual dream of cheap labor explains the invention of slavery, though few may couch it in those terms. Drawing such connections with impressive even handednessed and investigative and analytic acuity, this readable popular history covers U.S. labor from precolonial times to the late 1960s, with two short chapters on the last few decades."

"Brandishing little-known facts, the authors reshape common views of social history. Remarkably, for instance, hundreds of black indentured servants came to the colonies from Africa the 1600s, and throughout the century, as the "peculiar institution" was legalized, these free men and women were forced into slavery. Less astonishing but still significant, the Wobblies pushed as much for free speech as union organizing, and their newspapers were illustrated by famous avant-garde artists."

"Sometimes the authors simply highlight an obvious fact that has languished in obscurity for instance, that the American Revolution was sparked by the discontent of working people, not the wealthy or landowning, or that many defenders of slavery believed that all labor should be enslaved."

"Murolo (who teaches American history at Sarah Lawrence College) and Chitty (a librarian at Queens College) gracefully handle a broad range of subject matter Chinese railroad labor is considered alongside housework and steel-mill work making it easier to understand the complex historical relationships between work, gender, ethnicity, race, immigration and sex." 

"Accessible to high school students as well as adults, this extraordinarily fine addition to U.S. history and labor literature could become an evergreen book comparable to Howard Zinn's award-winning A People's History of the United States."
- Publishers Weekly

For a look at globalization and immigration check out: 

"Carolina Bank Munoz's rich ethnographic fieldwork in two tortilla factories, one in Mexico and the other in the United States, has produced an extremely well crafted, highly accessible book on the role of state policy, race, gender, and immigration status in the labor process and, more precisely, labor control."

"The author of this must-read book for labor and immigration scholars and activists, provides a well-researched and convincingly argued analysis of how managers employ an 'immigration regime' on one side of the border and a 'gender regime' on the other to discipline labor."

"The importance of this book lies both in the theoretical contributions that it makes to several literatures and the practical insights that it offers to organizers of low-wage and immigrant workers."
-Héctor L. Delgado, University of La Verne, author of New Immigrants, Old Unions: Organizing Undocumented Workers in Los Angeles

"Transnational Tortillas presents a fascinating analysis of the ways in which state policies, immigration status, gender, and race shape labor control at the factory level. Carolina Bank Muñoz's study of the United States is particularly insightful and persuasively shows how immigration status has allowed employers to deploy methods of labor control that pit documented and undocumented workers against each other and that take advantage of undocumented workers' lack of citizenship status and fear of deportation to enact labor control on the shop floor."
-Teri L. Caraway, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, author of Assembling Women

Bob Daraio
Broadcast Union News

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