Every year, UALE members recognize the important work of our colleagues by voting for the year’s Best Book published in the previous year (in this case, 2016 - 2017). This year's winner will be acknowledged at this year’s UALE Conference.
Below you will find the complete list of books that were nominated this year and their descriptions.
THE LAST DAY TO VOTE IS FRIDAY, MARCH 16. If you are a UALE member, and did not get an email explaining how to vote, please contact UALE Secretary Amanda Pacheco.
BEST PUBLISHED BOOK 2016-2017
1. From Mission to Microchip: A History of the California Labor Movement, by Fred Glass, University of California Press, 2016
From Mission to Microchip, the first overview history of California labor published in several decades, sifts through a dozen generations of struggle against economic inequality and for workers' rights to distill the essential story of labor past and present in the state often seen as the nation's pacesetter. Iconic moments like general strikes, coalition political campaigns and organizing drives, but also daily working-class life, memorialize the efforts by native born and immigrant workers to shape the golden state to their needs.
Conveyed in lively prose by a longtime union communications director and labor educator, the book is the culmination of twenty-five years of academic research and classroom practice, and offers insight to scholars, rank and file activists and the general public alike. In the words of Mike Davis, "No one has ever made California labor history so vivid or so rich with lessons for the present. A landmark book.”
2. Knocking on Labor's Door: Union Organizing in the 1970s and the Roots of a New Economic Divide, by Lane Windham, University of North Carolina Press, 2017
Knocking on Labor’s Door is among the best works of scholarship in service of labor education published in the last decade. Lane Windham takes a fresh look at a phenomenon that many of us we thought we understood – the decline of U.S. trade unionism between the 1960s and the 1990s. With meticulous research, insightful analysis, and graceful prose, she overturns our preconceptions and opens our eyes to a new understanding of how, when, and why collective bargaining was rolled back. She rethinks labor's recent past by uncovering forgotten stories of struggle that happened amid what many supposed to be a time of increasing quiescence, arming us with an empowering history that identifies the key impediments to overcome in order to revive the labor movement, and clarifies the key role that unorganized women, immigrants, and workers of color must play in that breakthrough. This book has no peer in 2016-2017
3. No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age, by Jane McAlevey, Oxford University Press, 2016
Jane McAlevey is known to many labor educators and students from her first book Changing Expectations, a memoir of her life in the labor movement. It laid the groundwork theoretically for No Shortcuts, but in between her books, Jane pursued a PhD. No Shortcuts is the result. It develops new theory and synthesizes it with the practice of worker organizations in case studies of the Chicago Teachers, Make the Road New York, Smithfield, and two nursing home locals.
McAlevey thinks that unions will only survive if they reinvent themselves as social movements, which engage in deep organizing that extends to issues beyond the workplace. She develops a theory of power for the working class and illustrates how working class social movements develop. The book was used in a Union Leadership course, and the students said it gave them great insight into labor’s potential and how to achieve it.
4. Politics of the Pantry: Housewives, Food, and Consumer Protest in Twentieth-Century America, by Emily E. LB. Twarog, Oxford University Press, 2017
Politics of the Pantry examines how working- and middle-class American housewives used their identity as housewives to protest the high cost of food. Shifting the focus away from the workplace as a site of protest, Twarog examines key moments when women used consumer actions to embrace their socially ascribed roles as housewives to demand economic stability for their families and communities. These include the meat boycott of 1935, the consumer coalitions of the New Deal, and the wave of consumer protests between 1966 and 1973.
In this accessible work, Twarog analyzes the role that numerous labor and consumer activists and their organizations played in both urban and suburban areas--Detroit, greater Chicago, Long Island, and Los Angeles. She moves the focus away from unions and worksites to the place of the home in labor protest and how women used their collective power to educate other women and the public sphere.
5. Secrets of a Successful Organizer, by Alexandra Bradbury, Mark Brenner, and Jane Slaughter, Labor Education and Research Project, 2016
The book is an invaluable manual on every facet of grassroots organizing, not just for labor contract campaigns or internal organizing campaigns. The book has been translated into Spanish and is being used by Worker Centers as well. Also, the publisher has developed a terrific curriculum (in English and Spanish) to go along with the manual. With the number of right to work states increasing and the looming threat of the open shop in the public sector (and possibly even a federal right to work law in the near future), this book is extremely relevant and needed. I really can’t think of a more deserving book for UALE to recognize and promote.
6. Unions in Court: Organized Labour and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, by Larry Savage and Charles Smith, University of British Columbia, 2017
This book provides a compelling and critical overview of the Canadian labour movement’s engagement with the judicial system and Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedom’s. It explores whether unions can and should use the courts as a means for expanding and institutionalizing labour rights (I.e. the right to organize, bargain and strike), in contrast to engaging in forms of collective political struggle to expand those rights. It makes accessible what are typically difficult to penetrate judicial decisions, and equips union activists with an analysis of the promises and pitfalls of legal strategies. This book is resonating with union audiences who have met with the authors. Given the decisions on labour rights that have recently been issued by the US Supreme Court, this book is a valuable resource for those interested in a broader analysis of the strategic approaches to entrenching freedom of association rights for workers.