... 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.