Synopses & Reviews
From an award-winning historian, a stirring (and timely) narrative history of American labor from the dawn of the industrial age to the present day.
From the textile mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, the first real factories in America, to the triumph of unions in the twentieth century and their waning influence today, the contest between labor and capital for their share of American bounty has shaped our national experience. Philip Dray’s ambition is to show us the vital accomplishments of organized labor in that time and illuminate its central role in our social, political, economic, and cultural evolution. There Is Power in a Union is an epic, character-driven narrative that locates this struggle for security and dignity in all its various settings: on picket lines and in union halls, jails, assembly lines, corporate boardrooms, the courts, the halls of Congress, and the White House. The author demonstrates, viscerally and dramatically, the urgency of the fight for fairness and economic democracy—a struggle that remains especially urgent today, when ordinary Americans are so anxious and beset by economic woes.
This stirring study situates one of the most subversive yet profoundly American of social movements at the heart of the nation's history. Historian Dray (At the Hands of Persons Unknown) follows organized labor from the struggles of early 19th century female textile workers to the present day retreat of organized labor following the failed 1981 air trafic controllers' strike. His episodic narrative structured around major strikes shows labor's heroic age as an era of naked class warfare: strikers died by the dozens in pitched battles with police soldiers and Pinkerton agents and such charismatic organizers as Eugene Debs Big Bill Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn braved prison and worse. The post WWII period by contrast is a story of union conservatism corruption scandals and one rout after another at the hands of union busting corporations abetted by government indifference. Organized labor's legacy the author argues is as much political as economic; it challenges bedrock American values of self reliance while championing civil liberties IWW speakers faced mass arrest for their public square orating and bringing rights to the workplace. Packed with vivid characters and dramatic scenes Dray's fine recap of a neglected but vital tradition has much to say about labor's current straits. (Sept.) " Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
Award-winning historian Dray shows the vital accomplishments of organized labor and illuminates its central role in social, political, economic, and cultural evolution.
About the Author
PHILIP DRAY is the author of At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America, which won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and made him a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and Stealing God’s Thunder: Benjamin Franklin’s Lightning Rod and the Invention of America, and the coauthor of the New York Times Notable Book We Are Not Afraid: The Story of Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney, and the Civil Rights Campaign for Mississippi. He lives in Brooklyn.