By Diego Báez
August 14th, 2014
Brecher’s riveting primer on modern American labor history catalogs U.S. workers’ movements from the railroad strikes and Great Upheaval of July 1877 to the mass demonstrations and Haymarket affair of 1886 to Great Depression protests and Vietnam-era revolt to Time’s declaration of “The Protester” as person of the year in 2011. Brecher dives inside the everyday struggles of rank-and-file workers and provides a thoroughly researched, alternative history rarely mentioned in textbooks or popular media. Each chapter contextualizes the wide array of tactics workers have employed to negotiate fair wages and humane working conditions since the nineteenth century, such as collective bargaining, organized protest, nonviolent resistance, and armed conflict. This edition (the first was published in 1972) includes additional chapters on the Battle of Seattle, which disrupted the 1999 meeting of the World Trade Organization, and Occupy Wall Street, which inspired demonstrations across the country. Not surprisingly, Brecher’s text has been updated and reissued numerous times because of its compelling narrative style and exhaustive documentation. An important compendium, to be read alongside the books of Howard Zinn, Naomi Klein, and Noam Chomsky.