From Publishers Weekly
The misleading title of this maverick, clearly argued account from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) president Stern elides the bulk of its contents: he bookends his story with the problem-globalization, a widening income gap and its concomitant crises-and its solutions, but sandwiched in between are several chapters of recent labor history from the vantage point of a key leader. Stern details how he led his union of janitors, home health workers, nurses and other laborers in a split from the AFL-CIO in 2005. According to Stern, this restructuring exemplifies the necessity of revitalizing unions for positive change in America. He's optimistic about the future of unionization in the U.S.: not only does he see membership in the organized labor movement increasing, he casts unions as a major force in implementing sweeping societal reforms. His proposals include altering the regressive Social Security tax to put more burden on high earners (i.e. removing the cap on wages taxed and ending the wage-tax-only), offering universal access to decent health care, implementing guaranteed retirement plans, providing equal access to the Internet and improving public education from pre-K on up. Free market fundamentalists will dismiss Stern's ideas and moderates may not be convinced by his idealism, but he provides an important point of view for organizers and labor historians.
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Stern, president of the fastest-growing union in the U.S., focuses on those Americans who are a paycheck or two away from crisis. Although he acknowledges the role of globalization, Stern primarily lays the blame for derailed systems to protect Americans in retirement, education, and health care primarily on irresponsible politicians who serve special interests. His model for all Americans' health care is the one provided to the president, 535 members of Congress, and approximately nine million federal employees. He offers his and others' ideas for change, including overhauling our tax system to avoid taxing hard work while taxing wealthy individuals and corporations appropriately, urging significant investment in the Internet, and proposing strategies for education and a new retirement structure. As a major union figure, Stern may be preaching to his own constituents, but he repeats the familiar caution to never underestimate the power of people. He tells us, "You either change and make history or stick to the status quo and become history." Mary WhaleyCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved