cover image A Collective Bargain: Unions, Organizing, and the Fight for Democracy

A Collective Bargain: Unions, Organizing, and the Fight for Democracy

Jane McAlevey. Ecco, $26.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-290859-9

Labor activist McAlevey (Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell)) delivers a persuasive argument that the power of “strong, democratic” trade unions can fix many of America’s social problems in this timely cri de coeur. Sketching the history of the labor movement from the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, which guaranteed the right to collective bargaining; through the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, which banned sympathy strikes, legalized corporate campaigns against unionization, and created “right-to-work” laws; and the “union-busting effects of globalization” beginning in the 1970s, McAlevey contends that the weakening of private- and public-sector unions over the past 80 years is directly responsible for increased income and political inequality. Yet unions can be successful even in a diminished state, McAlevey notes, pointing to recent strikes in the education, health-care, and hospitality industries that led to improved contracts. She offers a useful primer on how labor organizing works, and effectively refutes common assumptions about unions, including that they discriminate against women and are inherently corrupt. Well-run unions, she contends, can achieve better schools, stronger environmental protections, and increased racial and gender equality. McAlevey’s caustic humor (“We don’t need robots to care for the aging population. We need the rich to pay their taxes”) and contagious confidence in the efficacy of organized labor give this succinct volume an outsize impact. [em](Jan.) [/em]