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February 25, 2005

What Ezra Should Read

Ezra Klein has made a resolution to put more labor issues into his progressive vision, but wants to know which books might steer him in the right direction. Since he started with Thomas Geoghagen's Which Side Are You On?, one of my all-time favorites (and whose author I coincidentally met just this past week, much to my delight), he's off to a good start. So let me add a few more titles, not an exhaustive list but a few highlights:

Labor Will Rule: Sidney Hillman and the Rise of American Labor- a biography of Sidney Hillman, the organizer of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union (a forerunner of today's UNITE) and co-founder of the CIO in the 1930s, a man who embodied some of the best qualities of labor leadership in the first half of this century.

Reds or Rackets: The Making of Radical and Conservative Unions on the Waterfront - a fascinating sociological analysis of why longshoremen on the East Coast ended up under the thumbs of the mob, while those on the West Coast created one of the most radical and democratic unions in the country.

The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor-- you can't understand the internal wars within labor during and after World War II without understanding Reuther, since the United Auto Workers were the pivot on which the politics of the CIO moved and Reuther ultimately controlled that pivot as he turned against his former Communist allies within the labor movement. And Reuther's and the UAW's role in supporting the civil rights movement should not be forgotten by any progressive.

Working Class New York- a detailed account of labor's role in New York City, a story that doesn't ignore the racism of some unions but also highlights the vital role of most union leaders in fighting for civil rights and the dignity of working people of all races in a wonderful urban history.

The Copper Crucible- the history of the 1983 Phelps Dodge strike in Arizona, the first major use of permanent replacements in the modern era, a strike that set the pattern for union-busting throughout the 1980s and 1990s. (BTW Anne Coulter's Dad was the union-busting lawyer for Phelps Dodge in this battle).

Folks have other suggestions for Ezra?

Posted by Nathan at February 25, 2005 05:00 PM