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Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell): My Decade Fighting for the Labor Movement Hardcover – November 20, 2012


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Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell): My Decade Fighting for the Labor Movement + "They're Bankrupting Us!": And 20 Other Myths about Unions
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 332 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; 1 edition (November 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844678857
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844678853
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #226,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“This book is gripping, funny, sad, and very thought-provoking. Jane McAlevey uses her own experiences in a movement that has been undergoing dramatic changes—within a workforce that has undergone even greater changes—to suggest to the reader the necessity and potential for a transformation of the union movement into a real labor movement. Once I started reading it, there was no stopping.”—Bill Fletcher Jr., author of “They’re Bankrupting Us!” And Twenty Other Myths about Unions

“This book casts a bright light on the problems of American unions. Jane McAlevey gives us an on-the-ground account of the obstacles the union hierarchy throws in the path of a bold and energetic organizing effort that scored a string of brilliant successes before the hierarchy cracked down. We need to read this book and learn its lessons partly for what it tells us is wrong about unions, but also because it demonstrates that good organizers can in fact succeed. That message is heartening because the simple truth is that we can’t rebuild a democratic left in the United States without a revived labor movement.”—Frances Fox Piven, author of Who’s Afraid of Frances Fox Piven?

Raising Expectations is a breath-taking trip through the union-organizing scene of America in the 21st century. In the battles McAlevey recounts, hardly anyone comes out standing tall. But her story, along with those of so many brave health care workers, fills me with hope.”—Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed

“This book renews my faith that organizing works. It calls for a new kind of unionism and makes a compelling case for a new vision for the American labor movement. In the ‘whole worker theory’ that McAlevey tested and retested in real life campaigns, all the issues negatively impacting the poor, working and middle class become the cause of unions, not simply wages and narrowly defined workplace conditions. At a time when climate change is wreaking havoc at home and abroad and communities of color are becoming the vital center of progressive social change, this book offers one path to building a movement that can and must tackle many issues. Raising Expectations is so refreshing because it aspires to tell us how we can rebuild a movement that can win.”—Van Jones

“McAlevey’s message—that unions alone give working people voice at the bargaining table and the ballot box—burns with conviction. She makes for bracing company in interesting times.”—The Plain Dealer

“McAlevey burns with a passion for the cause”—Keith Richmond, Tribune

“McAlevey promotes the concept of ‘whole worker’ organizing, which seeks to go beyond the ‘labor-community’ paradigm in a manner that recognizes that workers are rooted in, and not separate from, communities and also recognizes the value of bringing community organizing techniques into the realm of labor and vice versa.”—Book News

About the Author

Jane McAlevey Jane McAlevey spent twenty-five years as an organizer in the student, environmental, and trade union movements. She is a Contributing Writer at the Nation, and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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And it's fun to read.
Kent Minault
McAlevey's big personality comes through, along with her joy in fighting the good fight.
Belinda D. Thielen
Kudos to McAlevey for a well written, cogent and compelling account.
Troyboy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By John A on November 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book on Friday, and finished it over the weekend. It's hard to put down. McAlevey paints a graphic, funny and heartbreaking portrait of a labor "movement" that, faced with a hostile legal environment and an economy in the midst of profound structural transformation, has chosen to give up its best weapons and leave workers to struggle on the best they can. This book is incredibly moving, inspiring, and in the end infuriating. Anyone wondering what ever happened to the American Dream should look no further; the dream has turned into a money machine for the rich and powerful and a nightmare for the working class.

What McAlevey shows is that it simply doesn't have to be this way, and that if labor spent even a small fraction of the cash it devotes to electioneering and recruiting new workers to doing real "whole worker" organizing and putting talented organizers and contract experts on the negotiations where better deals for working people are actually won, unions might actually get some forward motion in their movement. What transpires instead is astonishing and tragic. Unionized workers pay dues that trickle up to support the activities of the union bureaucracy, but suffer with lousy contracts and worse working conditions. No wonder most American workers don't want to join a union -- a lot of the time, it doesn't do much for them.

MAlevey also makes it clear that to focus on the "density" or percentage of workers unionized in a given industry as a key metric of union strength is to miss the main point. Sheer numbers are great for union leaders, who can leverage the weight of multitudes to gain influence and cut political deals, but numbers alone don't create movements that empower the rank and file.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By david and karla goldberg on November 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an educator and teacher union leader I find this book incredibly important. As all of us try to think and act our way out in these difficult times, it is vital to listen to the insight of people like Mrs. McAlevey that have dedicated their lives to invigorating the labor movement. Her humor and wit make the lessons that much more easier to listen to.

David Goldberg
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Troyboy on November 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Quite simply, one of the best books I've read. A gripping account of a labor activist. Many lessons on how the labor movement can become a relevant force. Kudos to McAlevey for a well written, cogent and compelling account.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ms. Rae on November 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In crisp, faced-paced prose that has you living the text rather than reading it, McAlevey has created a book not unlike her powerful unions: smart, relevant, and forceful. This is a must read for activists in any arena.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By el molestoso on November 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
"Raising Expectations" provides a very practical, on the ground perspective of what organized labor today is and what it is not, from a person who has done extensive work in local and national settings, but who is also well aware of global trends and of the strategic role unions can and must play in the fight for democracy and social equality. Jane McAlevey has given us a real "page turner" - a well-written, engaging story full of humorous anecdotes that introduces the reader to the lives of not only organizers but rank and file workers, all the while allowing even those unversed in labor and social justice organizing to get a sense of what is at stake for healthcare workers, and the ways that organized people can win victories that concretely improve their lives.

With that said, "Raising Expectations" is not just about "labor" organizing. There are many lessons here for anyone involved in grassroots organizing in the community and electoral arenas (McAlevey in fact argues that you cannot engage in successful union work without doing the other two things.) McAlevey does a great job of defining, through her own practical experience, what real leadership is and what it takes to successfully identify and develop leaders. She draws a useful distinction between "organizing" people through a transformative process, and "mobilizing" those who are already convinced about an issue or a candidate. In so doing, she raises basic questions about the degree to which organizing work can actually enable people directly affected by day to day social and economic concerns to act on their own behalf, as opposed to simply building up an infrastructure of paid staff who then engage in advocacy via communications and messaging.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By David, Lawyer/Ethicist on November 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
McAlevey's story is a must read for anyone who is wondering how the working class lost its way. Contrary to what we heard from Romney, the only real job creators are tens of millions of workers with money to spend on what other people make. The market doesn't dictate the value of labor, the laborers do. As McAlevey observes "The Occupy Movement has brought more people into the streets than we have seen in a long time...", and that is where it all begins.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Fredo Serrano on November 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Written by one of the most intelligent women I have ever met. I had no idea how huge what Jane was accomplishing was to the workers in the state of Nevada. I never thought a book about organizing would recreate a portion of my life and bring tears to my eyes. An honor to be mentioned!
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