“It troubled me that the great struggle of organized labor, and the value of that struggle, have largely been forgotten or marginalized as history,” says Philip Dray (Capitol Men, 2008, etc.), of his motivation for writing a comprehensive history of the American labor movement. His narrative traces the progress of the movement from the first signs of organization in the early industrializing Republic to the height of organized labor’s power in the postwar years. “Labor unions have and can be a dynamic force for economic and social justice,” he says. “And society as a whole is better served when workers wield their collective power.” Yet the enormous gains of the movement are also told against the backdrop of powerful anti-union interest in America, and the struggle for legitimacy and political protection. Dray concludes his history with an account of labor’s efforts to regroup following the many setbacks of the past few decades. Given the often-unfavorable political climate and the monumental challenges confronting unions amid a rapidly transforming and globalizing economy, he says that “the difficulties are enormous...but the labor cause has transformed itself in the past to meet new challenges, and may do so again.” (First appeared in our Fall Preview.)


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Pub info:

There is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America

Philip Dray

Doubleday / September / 9780385526296 / $35.00


This book was featured in the Kirkus Best of 2010
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