No Retreat, No Surrender: Labor's War at Hormel

Dave Hage, Author, Paul Klauda, With William Morrow & Company $22.95 (398p) ISBN 978-0-688-07745-7
Two Minneapolis Star Tribune journalists here present a superlative account of an American social tragedy. After decades of friendly labor relations and ever-rising living standards for workers at the Hormel meatpack ing plant in Austin, Minn., the authors report, company management cited competitive pressures in the early 1980s to seek wage cuts and other union concessions. Inept and unyielding negotiation attempts on both sides, as Hage and Klauda tell it, led to a strike. Suspenseful hopelessness grips the reader as powerful forces and fateful blunders overwhelm Local P-9 of the Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee and its charismatic but intransigent leader, Jim Guyette, who pursues enthusiastically supported but increasingly unrealistic expectations. Mediation procedures, court appeals, labor board rulings and his own parent-union structure eventually go against him. The authors' narrative skill, seemingly acute objectivity and reasoned compassion bring vividly to life the sudden and locally incomprehensible shattering of a labor dream town's friendships, families, hopes and civic leadership as violent demonstrations, firm resistance, ``scab'' defections and polarized bitterness culminate in the loss of hundreds of jobs when the long strike ends in failure. Photos not seen by PW. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1989
Release date: 06/01/1989
Genre: Nonfiction
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