Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Poor Workers' Unions: Rebuilding Labor From Below

Poor Workers' Unions: Rebuilding Labor From Below. By Vanessa Tait. Cambridge, MA, 2005. 258pp. $20 paper.
Vanessa Tait couldn't have picked a better time to release her book. The tremendous changes that have taken place in organized labor and the debates leading up to these new labor formations about who has the "magic bullet" for success in organizing the unorganized have inspired organizers to look to the future for exciting possibilities for the labor movement. However, Poor Workers' Unions: Rebuilding Labor From Below, provides us a much needed glimpse into the past—a look at organizing campaigns among poor and marginalized workers who at one time were considered unorganizable and campaigns that were thought unwinnable. Most of these efforts were initiated by underfunded and fledgling community organizations as well as progressive trade unions.
In the introduction to her book Poor Workers' Unions, Vanessa Tait asserts, "Poor workers' organizing efforts have much to teach the labor movement.… Poor workers' unions fight for justice in the workplace and at the same time consciously challenge the balance of economic and political power in local communities." Tait sets out to support this assertion by providing readers with descriptions of key innovative, hard-fought campaigns to organize marginalized workers of color and women. Tait conducted dozens of interviews, mainly with staff in labor and community organizing. Instead of giving an exhaustive list of organizations and the campaigns they initiated, Tait chooses to highlight campaigns that transformed the ways organizers think about race, gender, age, and immigrant status, from late 1960s to the present day.
--see full review by Raahi Reddy,University of California, Berkeley
in Labor Studies Journal 30.4 (2005) 113-115.

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