Monthly Archives: February 2015

Two New Books On the Need for Unions

Not satisfied with beating up on Wisconsin public worker unions, organized labor nemesis Scott Walker is taking his anti-labor antics national. He made a big splash in Iowa this past week, at the Republican I- wanna-be-president confab.

Walker’s attacks on teachers and other state and city workers largely built his reputation and helped position him to make a play for national attention. So it’s especially encouraging, at a time when he and other conservatives are looking to weaken labor, to see the publication of two new pro-union books, both recently reviewed favorably in the New York Times.

Only One Thing Can Save Us; Why Our Country Need a New Kind of Labor Movement, by Chicago labor lawyer Thomas Geoghagen, defends his city’s teachers against the likes of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the education DEformers and their efforts to essentially privatize public education via more charter schools. Equally important, says Nelson Lichtenstein, a UCLA Santa Barbara history professor who wrote the Times review, he goes on to note the need to strengthen legal protections for unions in the U.S., and perhaps use Germany’s unions and their relationships with employers as a model here.

James Green, a University of Massachusetts emeritus history professor, has written The Devil Is Here in These Hills; West Virginia’s Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom. The book recounts the control the mine owners had over the workers’ lives and the bloody early 20th-century battles in Mingo and Logan counties. Mother Jones and Eugene Debs, among other labor leaders figure in the decades-long battles, notes Times reviewer Dwight Garner. So did a song by Blind Alfred Reed, likely familiar to people who know old-timey and bluegrass music, which asks a question all too relevant today; “How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?”