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From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend: A Short, Illustrated History of Labor in the United States Paperback – January 1, 2003

4.2 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Management's perpetual dream of cheap labor explains the invention of slavery, though few may couch it in those terms. Drawing such connections with impressive evenhandedness and investigative and analytic acuity, this readable popular history covers U.S. labor from precolonial times to the late 1960s, with two short chapters on the last few decades. Brandishing little-known facts, the authors reshape common views of social history. Remarkably, for instance, hundreds of black indentured servants came to the colonies fromAfricain the 1600s, and throughout the century, as the "peculiar institution" was legalized, these free men and women were forced into slavery. Less astonishing but still significant, the Wobblies pushed as much for free speech as union organizing, and their newspapers were illustrated by famous avant-garde artists. Sometimes the authors simply highlight an obvious fact that has languished in obscurity for instance, that the American Revolution was sparked by the discontent of working people, not the wealthy or landowning, or that many defenders of slavery believed that all labor should be enslaved. Murolo (who teaches American history at Sarah Lawrence College) and Chitty (a librarian at Queens College) gracefully handle a broad range of subject matter Chinese railroad labor is considered alongside housework and steel-mill work making it easier to understand the complex historical relationships between work, gender, ethnicity, race, immigration and sex. (Sept.)Forecast: Accessible to high school students as well as adults, this extraordinarily fine addition to U.S. history and labor literature could become an evergreen paperback comparable to Howard Zinn's award-winning A People's History of the United States.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Chitty (librarian systems officer, Queens Coll., CUNY) and Murolo (history, Sarah Lawrence Coll.) have constructed a useful but flawed history of labor in America, starting with the arrival of Columbus in 1492 and ending with the election of George Walker Bush to be the 43rd President of the United States. The book's greatest strength is in putting a human face on the people, places, events, and social conditions that have shaped the evolution of organized labor. Also useful is the book's list of suggested readings. Its greatest weaknesses include the authors' obvious bias against business for example, they focus on class privilege, industrial capitalism, and the accumulation of wealth by a limited number of individuals while ignoring the vast number of small business owners who, like their workers, are challenged to survive in a rapidly changing global economy and the lack of footnotes, citations, or a thorough bibliography, all of which could be useful for students, scholars, and citizens interested in increasing their knowledge of this very important topic. Perhaps a better buy for both academic and public libraries would be Rekindling the Movement: Labor's Quest for Relevance in the Twenty-First Century (LJ 7/01). Not a priority purchase. Norman B. Hutcherson, California State Univ., Bakersfield
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The (January 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565847768
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565847767
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Grattan VINE VOICE on April 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Clearly the theme for this book is that life has been and continues to be a struggle for working people in the United States. The upper class, whether the pre-Revolutionary landed aristocracy or the more recent industrial or post-industrial capitalistic class, through its power, privilege, and wealth, has largely dominated and controlled the working class irrespective of wage or slave labor. The democratic promise of the nation's founding has taken a beating in this arrangement.
The authors attempt the impossible: the description of working class life in general over the last five hundred years with snapshots of countless names and events to provide the sustenance. The tone for the laboring class was set early on in our nation's history. The brutal and deadly nature of both indentured and permanent servitude is vividly brought home by the authors' careful description of their conditions and often futile resistance. Yet the fissures within the working class itself are evident throughout the book. Immigration and slavery and resulting ethnic conflicts and racism are shown through any number of positions taken and violent incidents to have been devastating to working class solidarity. In addition to ethnicity and race, the authors do not shrink from gender and sexual orientation issues. And the trampling of Native Americans fortifies the authors' arguments for the abuse of power.
To counter power and to assert their own voice, workers have formed countless organizations such as political parties (Socialist, Greenback), advocacy and reform groups (Ten Hour Leagues, producer and consumer cooperatives), community groups (Black Panthers, fraternal orders), as well as labor unions. The authors provide enough detail for the reader to see a U.S.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Like Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States," this work shows the great depth and breadth of the workers struggle in the story of America.

From the days of the American War of Independence, workers united against every form of slavery, dominance , and exploitation,.

Their struggles won the 40-hour week, the 8-hour day, the end of child labor, workplace safety laws, and the minimum wage. These great accomplishments created the middle class in America and the highest standard of living in history.

The capitalistic class fiercely fought union organization at every step, using police, goon squads, and state and federal troops to harass, gas, attack, beat, arrest, shoot, and, massacre strikers and organizers.

The workers' strike is the prototype of all non-violent resistance. The workers' movement spawned and supported many initiatives of social justice, including the vote for women and blacks, equality in the workplace, the rights of immigrants, gays, Native Americans, and the poor, and protection of the environment.

The capitalist class remains more powerful than ever. The workers and their movement show us what must be done and what struggles remain ahead to change the system.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was excited to purchase this book and was eager to get a strong historical overview of history of labor in the United States. The book is quite handsome looking, and the writing style is clear and engaging. However, I was no further than page 2 before I started getting nervous about the academic integrity of the work. The first statement that raised warning flags for me was "the Arawak population had dwindled from about ten million to a few thousand at best (p.2)" I am not a scholar myself, but I thought that starting population number seemed unusually high. I spend part of a day researching it and could find no reputable historian willing to cite a number even close to that.

Here is a comment on the matter from Bob Corbett, Professor Emeritus at Webster University: "There is a great debate as to just how many Arawak/Taino inhabited Hispaniola when Columbus landed in 1492. Some of the early Spanish
historian/observers claimed there were as many as 3,000,000 to 4,000,000. These numbers seem to be based on very little reliable evidence and are thought to be gross exaggerations. However, since nothing like a census was done, the methods for estimating the numbers are extremely shaky, whether by these early historians or later critics.One long technical article on the population comes in the with the low estimate of 100,000. Several other modern scholars seem to lean more forcefully in the area of 300,000 to 400,000. Whatever the number, what happened to them is extremely tragic."

So there is not much scholarly agreement...but ten million? Where is the support for that claim? As a reader of this book, you will never get to know; oddly, there are no footnotes, endnotes, or references to back up any claims being made.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The unions have been constantly harassed since their inception. No, unions did not kill Detroit, Robots killed Detroit. Unions are great when they are honest, and they usually are. The Kindle version of Joe Sacco's drawings are illegible, you will need to print them out. Anyone who wants to know about labor history in America should read this. It would be nice if Rand Paul and Newt Gingrich would read it. It would also serve them well in suppository form.
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