cover image THREE STRIKES: The Fighting Spirit of Labor's Last Century

THREE STRIKES: The Fighting Spirit of Labor's Last Century

Howard Zinn, . . Beacon, $24 (174pp) ISBN 978-0-8070-5012-5

Zinn (A People's History of the United States), Frank (Purchasing Power) and Kelley (Yo' Mama's Disfunktional!) each write compellingly about a significant early 20th-century strike, including historical background and reflections on consequences. Zinn depicts the bloody Colorado Coal Strike of 1913–1914—including the notorious Ludlow Massacre, in which National Guard troops killed two women and 11 children—pitting an immigrant workforce against John D. Rockefeller II. The strike was lost, but its memory inspired countless later victories. Frank describes the Detroit Woolworth's Strike of 1937 (begun 16 days after the Flint Sitdown Strike ended), in which 108 "working girls," many younger than 18, brought the Wal-Mart of its time to its knees in just seven days, sparking a wave of successful strikes and unionization in department stores across the nation. The strikers adeptly manipulated conventionally demeaning media stereotypes of girlhood frivolity and naïveté to protect themselves and woo support. Kelley describes a strike that fizzled—the New York Musicians Strike of 1936–1937, an attempt to return live musicians to movie theaters. Although it was barely noticed even when it occurred, the challenges involved—recognizing creative artists as workers, retaining control as new technologies empower owners, building solidarity and resolving conflicts between artist and audience interests—are more important than ever in today's global entertainment industry. All three stories involve memorable characters, internal labor movement relations, threatened or actual state intervention against the strikers, media representations that profoundly influenced strike outcomes, and continuing efforts to reinvent the labor movement and reclaim the dignity of labor. (Sept. 3)