... engrossing, character-driven, panoramic ... Greenhouse probably knows more about what is happening in the American workplace than anybody else in the country, having covered labor as a journalist for two decades. He achieves a near-impossible task, producing a page-turning book that spans a century of worker strikes, without overcondensing or oversimplifying, and with plausible suggestions for the future. This is labor history seen from the moments when that history could have turned out differently ... a book that breathes hope based on contingency ... Great nonfiction requires great characters, and Greenhouse has the gift of portraiture. He is able to draw a complex, human portrait of a worker with a minimum of words, making the reader greedy for more details, not just about the policies but about the people ... He is skilled at homing in on the moments of the highest uncertainty, and transforming them into stories with quick and destabilizing twists and turns.
As Greenhouse chronicles alternate and nontraditional ways of organizing, the overarching lesson of the book is that virtually everybody ends up better off from mobilizing—even if they don’t add their names to union rolls ... While Greenhouse gives us some history lessons...the most engaging parts of the book recount those nontraditional fights ... Ultimately, Greenhouse equates strong unions, or at least worker power, with democracy itself, and he sees very few limits on what a successful and healthy labor movement could achieve. The union movement could also 'champion universal health coverage, free community college, free public universities, more and better apprenticeships, paid paternal leave, a fairer tax system … affordable housing, first-class public schools, excellent transportation, and clean air and water,' he writes ... It’s a ridiculously bold list, and it’s meant to be. Greenhouse wants to see labor involved in every part of American life, building a stronger social safety net and fighting for everyone.
Greenhouse, a former labor reporter and foreign correspondent for the New York Times, builds a persuasive case that the inability of workers to engage in collective bargaining has markedly shifted power to corporations, fueling the nation’s exploding inequality ... Beaten Down, Worked Up paints vivid portraits of labor champions ... At the same time, there are searing accounts of the struggles of workers with no union to defend them ... If labor’s predicament seems dire, its future may lie in a new approach — organizing low-wage workers whether or not they can be unionized ... Public approval of unions has risen to 62%, the highest level since 2003. But the path forward for a diminished labor movement is far from clear. 'In the balance,' Greenhouse argues, 'is the future of our economy and our democracy.
Greenhouse clearly links strong unions to worker well-being. But his book is no paean to unions, which he holds partially responsible for the labor movement’s setbacks ... We certainly need a national movement around disenfranchised workers that, like education reform, has the potential to transcend party, class and generational lines. Beaten Down, Worked Up goes a long way toward explaining where the labor movement has been and where it needs to go. It’s an invaluable read for anyone interested in understanding one of the more shameful aspects of America’s status quo: the persistence of a working poor who, for the most part, work far harder than the rest of us yet live in a state of perpetual economic uncertainty, if not outright destitution.
The subtitle says it all in a powerful book from an author who is 'deeply concerned about what is happening to many American workers' ... With copious evidence, Greenhouse demonstrates that unionized workers received—and still receive from existing unions—not only improved wages, but also safer work conditions, predictable schedules, more comprehensive insurance, improved retirement benefits, increased paid vacation periods, and much more ... Greenhouse’s message is unambiguous: 'In no other industrial nation do employers fight so hard to defeat, indeed quash, labor unions.' Throughout the book, the author interweaves positive examples of labor-management collaborations that lead to a more productive workforce. These bits of hope come from anecdotes about culinary workers unionizing in Las Vegas, fast-food workers advocating for an increased minimum wage, and public school teachers going on strike. A clearly written, impressively researched, and accomplished follow-up to The Big Squeeze.
...an inspirational greatest-hits look at the past, present, and future of American workers’ movements ... This collection will satisfy readers who seek an introduction to labor history or ideas about how American workers can regain some power.