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Beaten Down, Worked Up

The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor
Narrated by: Fred Sanders
Length: 15 hrs and 34 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the longtime New York Times labor correspondent, an in-depth look at working men and women in America, the challenges they face, and how they can be re-empowered

In an era when corporate profits have soared while wages have flatlined, millions of Americans are searching for ways to improve their lives, and they're often turning to labor unions and worker action, whether #RedforEd teachers' strikes or the Fight for $15. Wage stagnation, low-wage work, and blighted blue-collar communities have become an all-too-common part of modern-day America, and behind these trends is a little-discussed problem: the decades-long decline in worker power.  

Steven Greenhouse sees this decline reflected in some of the most pressing problems facing our nation today, including income inequality, declining social mobility, the gender pay gap, and the concentration of political power in the hands of the wealthy. He rebuts the often-stated view that labor unions are outmoded - or even harmful - by recounting some of labor's victories, and the efforts of several of today's most innovative and successful worker groups. He shows us the modern labor landscape through the stories of dozens of American workers, from GM workers to Uber drivers, and we see how unions historically have empowered - and lifted - the most marginalized, including young women garment workers in New York in 1909, black sanitation workers in Memphis in 1968, and hotel housekeepers today. Greenhouse proposes concrete, feasible ways in which workers' collective power can be - and is being - rekindled and reimagined in the 21st century.

©2019 Steven Greenhouse (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“In this riveting account of the rise and fall of organized labor, Steven Greenhouse tells the stories of courageous men and women who put their jobs and often their lives on the line to help American workers gain the income and the dignity they deserve. After World War II, when more than a third of American workers in the private sector belonged to labor unions, workers had enough power to demand that wages keep up with productivity gains. The consequence was the greatest middle class in the history of the world. But over the past forty years, as union membership has declined, America’s middle class has waned. Greenhouse outlines how a worker’s movement could be rekindled, and why it must be. Deeply inspiring and profoundly important.” (Robert B. Reich, former Secretary of Labor and author of The Common Good)

“A timely and important book that explores how labor unions and worker power have made the US a fairer, more democratic country. In these times of renewed labor insurgency, Steven Greenhouse’s riveting reporting and storytelling reminds a new generation why workers’ and unions’ concerns must be restored to the center of our politics and workplaces.” (Katrina vanden Heuvel, editorial director and publisher, The Nation)

"Greenhouse...has provided a human dimension to the tale of income inequality, wage stagnation, and employer disrespect for workers.... Informative.” (Mark Levine, Booklist)

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  • Keith
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • 08-27-19

Primer for Unionism and Worker Struggles

Greenhouse, the former labor reporter for the New York Times, weaves in personal stories to tell a brief history of unions and the struggle for worker rights in America. His book is a recommended read for anyone looking to have a greater understanding of the current state of unions and ideas on how they can rebuild power for worker and civil rights.