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Why Unions Matter [Paperback]

Michael D. Yates
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Paperback, December 1, 1998 --  

Book Description

December 1, 1998 0853459290 978-0853459293

"A comprehensive, readable introduction to the history, structure, functioning, and yes, the problems of U.S. unions. For labor and political activists just coming on the scene or veterans looking for that missing overview, this is the best place to start."

--Kim Moody, author of Workers in a Lean World

With historical sidebars ranging from the Industrial Workers of the World to Cesar Chavez and a generous sprinkling of photos and cartoons, Why Unions Matter is a clear and simple introduction to the labor movement's purpose and promise.

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Yates, an economics professor and labor educator whose earlier books focused on workers legal rights (Power on the Job, South End, 1994), here seeks to cover a much broader canvas: how labor unions work, the victories they have won on the battlefields of sexism and racism, and an argument for unions as the sole means by which working people can obtain dignity, equity, and power. Written in a personal, anecdotal style, yet well documented, this book is particularly successful in the chapters that focus on the nuts and bolts of union activities (collective bargaining, structures, organizing), an area largely ignored by current business and political literature. For this reason alone it is a valuable addition to large public and academic libraries.Donna L. Schulman, Cornell Univ. Libs., Ithaca, NY
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"A comprehensive, readable introduction to the history, structure, functioning, and yes, the problems of United States unions. For labor and political activists just coming on the scene or veterans looking for that missing overview, this is the best place to start."
-—Kim Moody,founder of Labor Notes, author of Workers in a Lean World and U.S. Labor in Trouble and Transition

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Monthly Review Press (December 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0853459290
  • ISBN-13: 978-0853459293
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,439,195 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Yates is a writer, editor, and labor educator. Among his books are Why Unions Matter (Monthly Review Press, 1998, second revised edition 2009), Longer Hours, Fewer Jobs (Monthly Review Press, 1994), Power on the Job (South End Press, 1994), Naming the System: Inequality and Work in the Global Economy (Monthly Review Press, 2002),More Unequal: Aspects of Class in the United States (Monthly Review Press, 2007), Cheap Motels and a Hotplate: an Economist's Travelogue (Monthly Review Press, 2007), and In and Out of the Working Class (Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2009). He has also published more than 200 articles and reviews in a wide variety of journals, magazines, blogs, websites, and newspapers. He is currently Associate Editor of Monthly Review magazine and Editorial Director of Monthly Review Press. He taught economics and labor relations at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown from 1969 until his retirement in 2001. He won the Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award in 1984. Since 1980, he has been a labor educator, teaching trade union members in a wide variety of formats, from one-day seminars to six-week courses to semester-long classes. He has taught union members through Penn State's Union Leadership program, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst's Labor Center, Indiana University, Cornell's Labor Centers in Manhattan and Albany, and through individual arrangements with unions, including SEIU (1199), UNITE, USWA, UFCW, and OCAW. Yates also worked in the research Office of the United Farm Workers Union and has served as a labor arbitrator with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Mediation. He and his wife Karen Korenoski have been traveling the United States for the past eight years. These travels are recounted in his latest book Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate: an Economist's Travelogue.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
73 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Important Michael Yates Book February 10, 1999
By A Customer
Over the past decade, economist Michael Yates has written a number of books for working people -- "Power on the Job," "The Labor Law Handbook," "Longer Hours, Fewer Jobs: Employment and Unemployment in the United States" and now "Why Unions Matter." Yates manages to write in a clear readable style and, at the same time, talk about complex matters. He is also one of the very few nonlawyers who has an understanding and grasp of the role of law. "Why Unions Matter" manages to provide a lot of information about union history, labor economics, and even how to organize a union and bargain a contract in a very concise book. While I might differ with Yates on some details, I think this book makes a valuable contribution. It and his other books should be on every unionist's bookshelf, and unionists should lobby their public libraries to carry Yates' books.
As a final note, it is a very rare thing for academics, such as Yates, to write for a popular audience. All the pressures in academia are to write for other academics. It takes imagination, caring and courage to do what Yates does, and he deserves our gratitude for it.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars On Further Review July 22, 2003
The author makes it abundantly clear that without the backing of a labor union, most workers stand little chance of countering unilateral and capricious employer actions. A collective bargaining agreement is a quasi-constitution that provides for due process for workers in many workplace situations. Otherwise, employees simply work "at the will" of employers with no recourse to challenge decisions.
The author explores the steps that generally need to be taken to form a union under the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935. Beyond those procedures, he repeatedly stresses the class and workplace solidarity needed to form an effective union. But the main American labor movement in its evolution has never developed a coherent stance on the class nature of capitalism. Bureaucratic, bread-and-butter, business unionism describes the American labor movement after WWII. It is an orientation that does not seek to transform the essential dominance of American capital over the American working class.
It is clear that the American labor movement has since the Civil War faced incredible opposition from both employers and the state, including the police, the armed forces, and the judiciary. In addition, the various media empires portray unions as un-American or criminal in nature. Nonetheless, the author is unhappy with the conservatism of the labor movement regardless of any practical reasons for that stance. He views the purge of left-wing elements from unions and the lack of union internal democracy as developments that greatly weaken the ability of unions to fully represent the working class.
The key structure of unions is the local union that is centered on one or more workplaces in a geographical area.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Place to Start March 10, 2007
This is an excellent introduction to unions. The author covers the basic legal, economic and political aspects with a critical eye. This should be mandatory reading for union members and everyone else that wants to stand up to Corporate America.

Michael Yates' anecdotal stories of rank-and-file resistance to corporate greed and business unionism deserve to widely read in and of themselves.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Union book December 30, 2007
This book has a great history of unions and the American Labor Movement as
well. I didn't know how much unions have affected our current labor laws. I
think it would be a great supplement for any American History class.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Timely 2nd Edition! May 3, 2009
I'm glad Yates decided to put out this book during the national debate surrounding the Employee Free Choice Act. If every politician had to read this book, I think we'd be in a much better place. It's so important for students in particular to read this book because labor struggles have been kept out of history classes in school. Perhaps it would even be good guide for teachers at the high school level. People that have read this book and enjoyed it may also want to check out a short video I've discovered on the Indianapolis hotel workers' struggle for the union:

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent March 6, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Used book on a class and it facilitated great discussion. Final chapter should be required reading for everyone! Great work!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revealing information about unions May 17, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Of course unions matter.
While the employer has an army(managers, attorneys, spies, etc.) working for it to keep the upper hand over the employee, the employee is alone unless nepotism is involved.
The author gives countless reasons for the need of a union but also reveals how the unions eradicated the radicals and became a tool for the establishment to control anti-establishments throughout the world.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars should be mandatory reading in high school!
Very detailed yet relatively short history of labor's struggles. A eye opening the evolution and desentigration of the movement. Read more
Published 4 months ago by TRAVIS SMITH
5.0 out of 5 stars reasons we need unions
This is a great book that expresses the different reasons we need unions and what they are all about. Read more
Published 8 months ago by chris
1.0 out of 5 stars Biased Propoganda
I purchased this book with the intent of getting an unbiased view of unions in the US. I was hoping to learn some history and gain a better understanding of how unions have helped... Read more
Published on April 1, 2012 by David Kahn
5.0 out of 5 stars The Key Issues Front and Center
As the United States spirals into a deteriorating society built on a speculative finance economy run by a tiny parasitic elite beholden to nothing but the bottom line, along comes... Read more
Published on August 12, 2010 by Drew Hunkins
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book for an emerging union member
This book is great for anyone wanting to learning a little history on union and a significant amount of how unions operate.
Published on July 17, 2010 by IGUA
4.0 out of 5 stars For some, unions matter; for most, unions are an irrelevancy
Yates does present a good basic review of the trials and tribulations and the benefits of unions over the last century or so. But there is much disingenuity in this book. Read more
Published on January 24, 1999 by J. Grattan
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