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Publisher's Summary

“A page-turning book that spans a century of worker strikes.... Engrossing, character-driven, panoramic.” (Zephyr Teachout, The New York Times Book Review)

We live in an era of soaring corporate profits and anemic wage gains, one in which low-paid jobs and blighted blue-collar communities have become a common feature of our nation’s landscape. Behind these trends lies a little-discussed problem: the decades-long decline in worker power.             

Award-winning journalist and author Steven Greenhouse guides us through the key episodes and trends in history that are essential to understanding some of our nation’s most pressing problems, including increased income inequality, declining social mobility, and the concentration of political power in the hands of the wealthy few. He exposes the modern labor landscape with the stories of dozens of American workers, from GM employees to Uber drivers to underpaid schoolteachers. Their fight to take power back is crucial for America’s future, and Greenhouse proposes concrete, feasible ways in which workers’ collective power can be - and is being - rekindled and reimagined in the 21st century.            

Beaten Down, Worked Up is a stirring and essential look at labor in America, poised as it is between the tumultuous struggles of the past and the vital, hopeful struggles ahead.   

A PBS NewsHour Now Read This Book Club Pick 

©2019 Steven Greenhouse (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Greenhouse probably knows more about what is happening in the American workplace than anybody else in the country.... 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.... 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. And he has both the newspaper writer’s ability to find the one or two individuals whose personal stories exemplify a larger point, and the historian’s ability to make what has already happened seem unlikely. 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.... Engrossing, character-driven, panoramic.” (Zephyr Teachout, The New York Times Book Review)  

"What I fear is that the there is a systematic effort to wipe clean our national memory of the capacity and benefits of workers acting collectively and building strong unions. Greenhouse’s book helps us remember that labor unions really did build the middle class, raise the dignity of workers, and civilize workplaces. It also gives us reason to believe that, as labor activist Rose Schneiderman poetically framed it, workers still 'must have bread' but 'must have roses, too.'” (Robert Bruno, Perspectives on Work

“[A] comprehensive primer on a subject that is intimately intertwined with our collective history.... It is obvious that 'Beaten Down, Worked Up' represents a monumental - and mostly successful - attempt to connect all the dots and thus provide a clear context for the ongoing societal debate about the efficacy of the labor movement and its place in contemporary culture.... If you are concerned about the future, and especially our economic prospects, this is one you’ll definitely want to add to your reading list. Highly recommended.” (Aaron Hughey, Bowling Green Daily News

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What listeners say about Beaten Down, Worked Up

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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.

2 people found this helpful

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Must read

This book is fantastic. A must read for any leftist or anyone that supports unions and labor movements. I have not finished it yet but so far its up there with Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent as far as important political works. Well done Steven Greenhouse.

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need a different narrator

I felt like I was listening to a robot. The narration made it difficult to enjoy. Struggled to get through. May have a different experience reading.

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Expertly Written and Conceptualized

The author provides first the groundwork for many of the labor battles from history that come to define today’s state of affairs within workers rights

There is a lot to taken away here and I suggest it highly

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Extensive reporting on workers rights

This book is an extensive reporting g on the history of worked rights. A must read for all workers to ensure they appreciate their rights and responsibility for maintaining these hard fought and important rights. We need many voices at the table .

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brilliant, inspiring and informative.

fills me with hope for a future in wich we the people can control our destinies

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this it a must have in every library

I would have liked it more if the author really digged into the real heroes the real spearheads of the labor movements like the iww etc but overall it's a good book to have. in a lot of places in America labor movement and unions are stigmatized but it's only because people are not aware of labor unions and the fight for more fair and Democratic workplace is as American as apple pie. that is for a reason the more people know the more they fight back the system that exploits them even when they sleep. Walter Reuthers and Mother Jones of America have impacted millions of lives and they should be red and celebrated by millions. just like there are good cops and bad cops good plumber and bad plumber there are good union leaders and bad union leaders people should look at labor movement and unions as an ideal. just like we cannot dislike old police because of the bad police we cannot look at the labor movement with the lens of mainstream media where it makes the news if there is only a union leader misusing is power.
just like in the song,
my father was a miner and I am a miner's son,
I'll stick with the Union till every battle's won!