An Oral History of the ILWU
University of Washington Press 2009
One of my favorite bumper stickers reads “Unions: the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend.” Indeed they did. Organized labor has had a rocky history in the U.S. It’s been hounded for leaning left, associating with mobsters, and being corrupt. But truth be told unions have made an enormous contribution to American prosperity. This is especially true of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, as Harvey Schwartz explains his new book Solidarity Stories: An Oral History of the ILWU (University of Washington, 2009). While other unions were mired in all of the above-mentioned controversies, the ILWU managed to remain pretty clean. When hounded by the government, it did what all good unions should do–it closed ranks. When its members faced dislocation due to technological advance (for example during the “container revolution”), it adjusted, survived, and continued to serve the interests of its members, their industry, and the nation in general. It’s a real treat to read these working men and women tell their own stories and that of the cause to which they contributed. If you like the work of Studs Turkel, you’ll like this book. I do and I did.
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