Need a book about "The Labor Movement" in the United States
November 16, 2017 1:25 PM   Subscribe

I've become more active in my local teachers association recently, and I find myself wanting to read up on the history of the labor movement in the United States.

I have some general background knowledge of the origin of the concept of "unions" (thanks U.S. History class), but I haven't retained any sort of timeline or understanding of important turning points or events.

I'm looking for a general history/reference book to start, but am open to reading up on the development of teachers'/educators' unions specifically as well.

Of course I am interested in unions today and the direction we're heading (for example, the Janus case, which is on my radar), but that's a topic for a whole 'nother AskMe.

Thanks in advance for any help you can give me.
posted by Temeraria to Work & Money (8 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Labor's Untold Story is excellent. It is out of print but you can buy it for $5-6, plus shipping on or Amazon. Read the blurb and some of the 5 star reviews at Amazon. Some examples (which I agree with, heartily):

This is an outstanding resource for anyone wanting to learn about the Labor Movement in the United States... Caution: It will light a fire behind your eyes...!!!

Text is critical reading, should be elemental to basic US high school education curriculum.
posted by yellowdog at 1:45 PM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would suggest From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend as an excellent and concise starting point. It covers a key events and also has illustrations.

Depending where you are (feel free to message me) your local public university may have a labor extension program that offers free or low-cost classes that include labor hisotry.
posted by cushie at 1:51 PM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

While not exclusive to labor unions, but Zinn's A People's History of the United States covers lots of this ground and more.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:52 PM on November 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

Woah! The whole thing is apparently free here, too.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:53 PM on November 16, 2017

As a teacher, you may be interested in Richard Kahlenberg's biography of Albert Shanker, Tough Liberal: Albert Shanker and the Battles Over Schools, Unions, Race, and Democracy. Shanker was the founder of one of the teachers' unions.
posted by bbq_ribs at 2:04 PM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've recommended it here before, but Nelson's Lictenstein's State of the Union is a good and reasonably quick overview, and gives great context for understanding how we got to the present situation.

I would actually not recommend the Zinn book here, though obviously many chapters are on point. It's wonderful for what it is, but there are much better books targeted on this topic specifically.
posted by veery at 2:39 PM on November 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Seconding A People's History for a good historical overview.

You may also be interested in more bite-sized oral history from Studs Terkel.
posted by booksarelame at 4:15 PM on November 16, 2017

I remember Thomas Geoghegan's Which Side Are You On? being a worthy read, back when. Historical context and modern concern.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 11:08 PM on November 16, 2017

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