World Wide Work - Mar.2008
|THIS EDITION of the free bulletin, World Wide Work, is published by the
American Labor Education Center, an independent nonprofit founded in
WORLD WIDE WORK
New and worth noting...
Break Through by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger (Houghton
Mifflin). The authors of the provocative essay, "The Death of
Environmentalism," argue that the environmental movement can't build a
worldwide political majority for sustainable economic and environmental
policies if it is seen as trying to stop poor people around the world
from improving their standard of living while failing to address basic
human needs like good jobs, quality health care, and decent living
conditions. Environmental groups should not focus on campaigns to save
the whales or the rainforest, and unions should not focus on protecting
old-economy jobs, they argue. Instead, they should join forces to push
all-out for massive public investment in new forms of green economic
Driven Out by Jean Pfaelzer (Random House). At a time when
immigration is once again a hot topic in America, this study details the
systematic campaign of terror waged against Chinese immigrants in the
western U.S. in the last half of the 1800s, often by white working men
whose anger was fueled both by fear of being undercut by cheap labor and
resentment of the growing power of big corporations.
For Jobs and Freedom by Robert H. Zieger (University Press of
Kentucky). A 233-page review of the history of African American workers
and organized labor since the Civil War. Much of that history has been
one of exclusion, although more black workers became part of integrated
organizations with the rise of the industrial unions of the CIO.
Women Behind Bars by Silja J.A. Talvi (Seal Press). The number of
women in prison has tripled in the past 30 years. This thorough report by
an investigative journalist explores why, while telling human stories of
Coal River by Michael Shnayerson (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux) and
Moving Mountains by Penny Loeb (University Press of Kentucky). Two
nonfiction accounts by professional journalists describe community
struggles against mountaintop removal coal mining by giant corporations
in West Virginia. This mining technique has provided a few thousand,
mostly nonunion jobs while more labor-intensive and unionized underground
mining jobs continue to decline, the landscape is permanently destroyed,
and families that have lived in the area for hundreds of years are driven
out by flooding, landslides, and pollution of the streams. These books
are the nonfiction counterparts to the stunning novel by Ann Pancake,
Strange as This Weather Has Been, that was reviewed in a previous
edition of WWW.
The Squandering of America by Robert Kuttner (Knopf). One of the
leading economics writers explains how policies of both Republicans and
Democrats have hurt working people and proposes alternatives new leaders
Free Lunch by David Cay Johnston (Portfolio). For decades,
corporate-funded politicians have railed against "entitlements" for the
working poor, the middle class, and the elderly. A long-time New York
Times reporter provides chapter and verse about how the real welfare in
the U.S. is being collected by big corporations and the rich at everyone
The Age of Dreaming by Nina Revoyr (Akashic). This novel set in
Los Angeles is as dignified and gradually revealing as its main
character, a Japanese star in Hollywood's silent film days.
Black Glasses Like Clark Kent by Terese Svoboda (Graywolf). A man
who served as a military prison guard during the occupation of Japan
after World War II began suffering from suicidal depression when news of
Abu Ghraib hit the airwaves. Before he died, he asked his writer niece to
tell his story.
The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton (Warner Business Books).
Corporations, agencies, and other organizations should establish and
enforce explicit policies against abusive behavior, especially by those
who have power over others.
The Surgeons by Charles R. Morris (W.W. Norton). A journalist
spent months inside the heart center at one of the top hospitals in New
York, observing the work of leading surgeons and in the process learning
first-hand about the flaws of the health care system in which they
Beyond the Green Zone by Dahr Jamail (Haymarket). An independent
journalist without the constraints of "embedded" traditional media
reporters has made repeated trips to Iraq since the U.S. invasion to give
voice to civilians there and to investigate official government
On the Global Waterfront by Suzan Erem and E. Paul Durrenberger
(Monthly Review Press). Black longshoremen in Charleston, South
Carolina, generated international support as they fought to preserve
their union despite vicious physical and legal attacks.
The Great Strikes of 1877 edited by David O. Stowell (University
of Illinois). Essays by six academics look at different aspects of
historic uprisings that took place across the U.S. in 1877 and often had
serious racial overtones.
Class and the Color Line by Joseph Gerteis (Duke University). In
the late 19th century the Knights of Labor and the Populist movement
sometimes built interracial coalitions and sometimes didn't, depending on
local economic and political conditions.
Daring to Care by Susan Gelfand Malka (University of Illinois
Press). A professor and former nurse examines how changes in feminist
thought since the early 1960s have affected nurses' goals and
The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan (Houghton Mifflin). Few in
America realize that the destruction of Dust Bowl communities in the
1930s was a man-made disaster, not primarily a natural one, as the land
was torn up for new crops produced with mechanization, leaving it
vulnerable to wind storms. Roosevelt's New Deal brought farmers together
to try to restore and protect the land. This book tells the story of
people who stayed and survived rather than making the trek to
The Associates by Richard Rayner (W.W. Norton). Domination of
American economic and political life by a corporate elite goes back a
long way. This account profiles the no-holds-barred greed of four men who
dominated the development of California in the 1800s - Leland Stanford,
Collis Huntington, Charles Crocker, and Mark Hopkins.
Workplace Chemistry by Meg A. Bond (UPNE). A professor spent
years consulting for a New England chemical manufacturer that was
grappling with organizational change to promote diversity and combat
discrimination in all its forms.
Comfortably Numb by Charles Barber (Pantheon). Americans who make
up 6% of the world's population buy at least two-thirds of the world's
drugs directed at mental health, drug companies spend almost twice as
much on marketing as they do on research, and 85% of people with serious
mental illness can't afford the treatment they need.
What Happened to Saturn? (www.merrimack-films.com). A largely unmet challenge for the union movement that mainly focuses on pay and benefits is how to satisfy the desire of most working people to have input into and be able to take
pride in the quality and efficiency of the work they do. In the 1980s and
1990s, some corporate executives and academic consultants promoted a
variety of programs such as "team concept" or "quality of worklife" that
were supposed to meet that need by making partners out of workers and
management. The great majority of these experiments ultimately failed, in
large part because when push came to shove management was interested only
in potential productivity gains and not in sharing authority or in
improving working conditions. (See 1999 op-ed in the Baltimore Sun on www.TheWorkSite.org.) A new 30-minute film provides interviews with participants in perhaps the most famous of those experiments - the labor-management partnership at
the Saturn auto plant in Tennessee. The film gives all sides some air time, with an emphasis on those who supported the project and were sorry
to see it fail.
The Trials of Darryl Hunt (breakthrufilms.org). In 1984, a
19-year-old black man in North Carolina was charged with a murder he did
not commit and for which there were no eyewitnesses and no physical
evidence. By 1994, DNA testing cleared him, but he was not released for
ten more years. This feature-length documentary tells the story from the
point of view of Hunt himself, his defense attorneys, and a journalist
who dug into the case.
Big Old Life by Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem (Signature
Sounds). An exceptionally original spirited folk/bluegrass album that
makes you smile, in part because the performers are clearly having so
Signal Fire by Santa Cruz River Band. The latest CD from a
talented Tucson-based band that mixes cowboy, Mexican, native America,
and bluegrass influences.
Just Us Kids by James McMurtry (Lightning Rod). There's a lot
that's wrong in this world and McMurtry is angry about it in songs that
are somewhere between hard rock and country.
Through the Window of a Train by Blue Highway (Rounder).
Bluegrass with substance, featuring social and personal themes that go
beyond the usual clichés of the genre.
Brighter Than Creation's Dark by Drive-By Truckers (New West).
More country and less hard rock than past DBT albums.
The Geography of Light by Carrie Newcomer (Rounder). Thoughtful
new music in the folk tradition, delivered with a clear voice and
original poetry: "I am the fool who's life's been spent between what is
said and what is meant."
Notes on the last edition: The "Leave The Light On" CD was
by Chris Smither.
Those who want to order books through Powell's, a unionized alternative
to Amazon.com, may want to do so by going through the website of the
Powell's employees' union -- www.ilwulocal5.com -- where there is a link to click to get to the online bookseller. That way the workers' union gets 10% of the purchase and a list of labor-related books serves as the first screen you see.
Free tools for effective grassroots organizing and communication, as well
as back issues of World Wide Work, are available at
Tax-deductible contributions to the American Labor Education Center are
welcome and may be sent to 2721 Quail Run Rd., Talent, OR 97540. Thank you.
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