An inspiring model for coalition-building.

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IMMIGRANT WORKERS, FAITH ACTIVISTS, AND THE REVIVAL OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT

A veteran (30-plus years) labor organizer tells the story of the Seattle-Tacoma area’s successful $15-per-hour minimum wage campaign and looks forward to a future revival of the labor movement.

Rosenblum was director of the Service Employees International Union’s campaign to improve the wages and working conditions of its members at the SeaTac airport. Inspired by New York City’s United Food and Commercial Workers campaign for a $15 minimum wage, the SeaTac campaign soon took on characteristics very different from those usually attributed to “the business union model.” The author and his allies adopted a political, coalition-building approach rather than relying on the negotiating services that the union staff provides—or fails to provide—for their worker members. Rosenblum’s idea rested on “three bedrock principles—aim higher, reach wide, build deeper.” The author develops the story of how most of the SeaTac workers were largely part-time and working for contractors, a situation caused by deregulation and the effects of post–9/11 austerity measures from airports and airlines. Many of the airport’s workers were also new immigrants. Few were making a living wage, and many were holding more than one part-time job. Local churches and mosques were providing aid and relief to workers’ families. Eventually, they and community organizers realized the power of banding together: “Sikh taxi drivers marched with Somali cabin cleaners, Ethiopian wheelchair attendants, Mexican and white fuelers, and African skycaps.” The campaign organizers decided to focus on the building of these coalitions in the surrounding community, making the question of living wages a moral and ethical issue for the organizations that provided spiritual shelter for their communities. Their campaign really kicked off when Hertz banned Muslims from praying. Ultimately, the community approach was transformational and led to an electoral ballot initiative and a sharply contested campaign, which established new wage rates and labor laws for the area.

An inspiring model for coalition-building.

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8070-9812-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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