Blog post

"When Workers Fought Back"—Joe Burns on Rebel Rank and File for In These Times

Clara Heyworth13 December 2010

In his review of Rebel Rank and File for In These Times, Joe Burns commends the new collection for "bringing to life [a] fascinating period in labor history," and for pointing the way to "another path to union renewal" at a time when "organized labor's strategies are not working."

Long before today's quieted labor movement came the turbulent 1970s, with its militant picket lines and industry-wide strikes. During this often-ignored period of U.S. labor history, workers tenaciously fought back against employers committed to eroding hard-won union gains. In contrast to today's staff-driven labor movement, workplaces teemed with radical rank-and-file caucuses and wildcat strikes.


Organized labor's current strategies are not working. By uncovering the hidden history of the 1970s, Rebel Rank and File reminds us that there is another path to union renewal—a path firmly rooted in the workplace and motivated by visions of transforming society. Both veterans of the '70s and a newer generation of unionists will be well-served to learn the lessons from this critical period.

Visit In These Times to read the review in full. Joe Burns' new book, Reviving the Strike: How Working People Can Regain Power and Transform America will be published next year.

Update December 20th: see also Richard Greenwald's review of Stayin Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class by Jefferson Cowie.

Filed under: reviews