cover image A History of America in Ten Strikes

A History of America in Ten Strikes

Erik Loomis. The New Press, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-62097-161-1

This partisan account covers 200 years of American labor history, from the start of the industrial revolution to the depleted state of contemporary unions, for readers who are pro-union and opposed to the capitalist class. Loomis, a labor historian, offers clear narratives about the 10 strikes of the title, emphasizing the pivotal role of women in the labor movement and instances when government acted as an honest broker between labor and management. He also doesn’t flinch when describing the less savory sides of the American labor movement, making it clear that racism has been a divisive force that has prevented worker movements from reaching their full potential in collective bargaining and left vast parts of the country, particularly the deep South, underrepresented in national labor actions. Loomis finds some cause for hope in a wave of immigrant union activists who will carry forward what is left of the labor movement. The introduction and conclusion make sweeping and value-laden claims (“We have a hierarchical society that has used propaganda to get Americans to believe everyone is equal”) without providing even footnoted argumentation to support them; this will fail to convince, if not alienate, readers who aren’t already familiar with the evidence or aligned with Loomis’s views. But those who agree with Loomis about the economic facts of American life will find this book illuminating and inspiring. (Oct.)