cover image From the Ashes of the Old: American Labor and America's Future

From the Ashes of the Old: American Labor and America's Future

Stanley Aronowitz. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $25 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-395-88132-3

In the last few years, histories have squeezed the most minute details out of the rise and fall of the 20th-century labor movement. Aronowitz (The Death and Rebirth of American Radicalism) takes the tack that ""the future of American labor is directly tied to America's future"" and, after extensive exposition of union diversity and interaction, he finds future union potential in the millions of white-collar workers and professionals and among production and service workers in the South. Citing the AMA and ABA as powerful lobbying units for professions once ""horrified"" at collective bargaining, he argues that doctors and lawyers have become increasingly salaried employees rather than owners of their practices ""and therefore control neither their incomes nor conditions of work."" Corporate managers are also ripe for unionization because they see, but do not share, the rewards of top executives. Meanwhile, the working poor (whom he defines as those families that earn under $20,000, not the government's $14,200) make up 30% of the workforce and should be another dynamic power. Aronowitz calls for an aggressive effort to organize the working poor--unlike distribution of food stamps and survival checks, Aronowitz sees organizing for collective bargaining as the best way for redistributing social wealth. This is an authoritative plea for broadening union punch beyond the flash of UPS and GM strike successes. Aronowitz's description of the current labor movement offers little new information, however, leaving readers wishing that he spent a little less time on the ashes and more on the new Phoenix. (Sept.)