Synopses & Reviews
In 1995, in the first contested election in the history of the AFL-CIO, John Sweeney won the presidency of the nation’s largest labor federation, promising renewal and resurgence. Today, less than 7 percent of American private-sector workers belong to a union, the lowest percentage since the beginning of the twentieth century, and public employee collective bargaining has been dealt devastating blows in Wisconsin and elsewhere. What happened?
Jane McAlevey is famous—and notorious—in the American labor movement as the hard-charging organizer who racked up a string of victories at a time when union leaders said winning wasn’t possible. Then she was bounced from the movement, a victim of the high-level internecine warfare that has torn apart organized labor. In this engrossing and funny narrative—that reflects the personality of its charismatic, wisecracking author—McAlevey tells the story of a number of dramatic organizing and contract victories, and the unconventional strategies that helped achieve them.
Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell) argues that labor can be revived, but only if the movement acknowledges its mistakes and fully commits to deep organizing, participatory education, militancy, and an approach to workers and their communities that more resembles the campaigns of the 1930s—in short, social movement unionism that involves raising workers’ expectations (while raising hell).
"This rousing memoir of McAlevey's decade-long experience as a union organizer spares neither the companies nor the union bosses. After success as a union organizer of home health care workers in Stamford, Connecticut, McAlevey was sent to do the same in Pittsburgh. There she ran up against a union executive vice-president who effectively sabotaged her work. After another successful assignment, McAlevey headed for Las Vegas to organize employees of for-profit 'scumbag' hospitals where the hard work of getting decent contracts for nurses provides a roller coaster experience. She makes certain the reader learns how to organize; the fine points of agreements are dissected thoroughly, including how to keep union members in 'right to work' states. McAlevey is not afraid to name names, offering millionaire CEOs with government contacts their fair dose of scorn. But her strongest fury is with the union leadership who seem to thwart her at every turn. Politics and turf wars are a recurrent theme in this book, which result in the destruction of the health care workers union in Nevada and McAlevey's departure from union work. This is a passionate defense of her efforts and a plea for others to pick up the gauntlet for workers. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"This book is gripping, funny, sad, and very thought-provoking. Jane McAlevey uses her own experiences in a movement that has been undergoing dramatic changes—within a workforce that has undergone even greater changes—to suggest to the reader the necessity and potential for a transformation of the union movement into a real labor movement. Once I started reading it, there was no stopping." Bill Fletcher Jr., author of < i=""> "They're Bankrupting Us!" and Twenty Other Myths about Unions <>
"This book casts a bright light on the problems of American unions. Jane McAlevey gives us an on-the-ground account of the obstacles the union hierarchy throws in the path of a bold and energetic organizing effort that scored a string of brilliant successes before the hierarchy cracked down. We need to read this book and learn its lessons partly for what it tells us is wrong about unions, but also because it demonstrates that good organizers can in fact succeed. That message is heartening because the simple truth is that we can’t rebuild a democratic left in the United States without a revived labor movement." Francis Fox Piven, author of < i=""> Who's Afraid of Frances Fox Piven? <>
A real-life Norma Rae on the catastrophic state of the American union movement.
Only about 7.5 percent of American private-sector workers belong to a union, the lowest percentage since the beginning of the twentieth century,and public employee collective bargaining is under fire in Wisconsin,Ohio, and elsewhere. What happened to the US labor movement?
Jane McAlevey swept to fame—and notoriety—as the hard-charging “Hurricane Jane” who helped make Las Vegas one of the few labor success stories of recent years. Then she was bounced from the movement, a victim of the high-level internecine warfare that has torn apart organized labor. In an engrossing, suspenseful and funny narrative—that reflects the personality of its charismatic, intense and wise-cracking author—McAlevey tells the story of her amazing organizing victories and lifts the lid on the civil wars inside organized labor. Labor’s Last Stand unearths the reasons for the movement’s downfall and emphatically argues that labor can be revived.
has been an organizer in the labor and environmental justice movements for the last twenty years. She is a PhD candidate at CUNY Graduate Center and lives in the San Francsico Bay Area.
Bob Ostertag is the co-author of Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell) and author of People’s Movements, People’s Press: The Journalism of Social Justice Movements and Creative Life: Music, Politics, People, and Machines. He has also published two movies and over twenty CDs of music, and covered the Central American civil wars as a journalist. He currently teaches at UC Davis and lives in San Francisco.
How one militant union organizer fought the bosses—and national labor leaders.
About the Author
Jane McAlevey Jane McAlevey spent twenty-five years as an organizer in the student, environmental, and trade union movements. She is a Contributing Writer at the Nation, and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.