Rethinking the American Labor Movement: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Rethinking the American Labor Movement

1st Edition

By Elizabeth Faue


234 pages

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Rethinking the American Labor Movement tells the story of the various groups and incidents that make up what we think of as the "labor movement." While the efforts of the American labor force towards greater wealth parity have been rife with contention, the struggle has embraced a broad vision of a more equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth and a desire for workers to have greater control over their own lives. In this succinct and authoritative volume, Elizabeth Faue reconsiders the varied strains of the labor movement, situating them within the context of rapidly transforming twentieth-century American society to show how these efforts have formed a political and social movement that has shaped the trajectory of American life. Rethinking the American Labor Movement is indispensable reading for scholars and students interested in American labor in the twentieth century and in the interplay between labor, wealth, and power.


Drawing upon a century of innovative scholarship, Elizabeth Faue provides a new synthesis of the U.S. working class. This incisive history not only reveals how a variety of neglected constituents challenged the narrow white supremacist, sexist, trade unionist, and private sector construction of the working class, but also gradually broadened the base of the labor movement itself. While a variety of global, national, and local forces, including labor’s own legacy of blindspots and missed opportunities, stymied the growth of a more diverse and inclusive labor movement by the late 20th century, Faue nonetheless sees hope for the "rebirth" of the labor movement in the recent Fightfor$15, the Occupy Movement, LBGT Rights, and the Black Lives Matter Movement.

- Joe William Trotter, Jr., Giant Eagle Professor of History and Social Justice and Director, Center for Africanamerican Urban Studies and the Economy (CAUSE) at Carnegie Mellon University

"In this stunning synthesis, Faue explores the success, and ultimate failure of the twentieth century U.S. labor movement to acquire continuing political power and economic clout. She tells us how, in the face of, depression and war, unions struggled with issues of race, gender, class; and overcame internal divisions to narrow the equality gap. But she also pinpoints the global trends that led to corporate and government hostility at the end of the century. Hers is an optimistic projection: through new coalitions and grassroots political innovation, Faue suggests, the labor movement continues to offer a hopeful path to a democratic future."

Alice Kessler-Harris, author of Gendering Labor History

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Labor Movement as a Social Movement

Chapter 1: Origins: Insurgent Labor, 1905-1922

Chapter 2: Rebuilding the Movement, 1922-1945

Chapter 3: Stability and Retreat: Labor's 'Men of Power', the Cold War, and the State

Chapter 4: Lost Opportunities: Labor, the New SOcial Movements, and Economic Change

Chapter 5: Labor's Strengths and Weaknesses

Chapter 6: The Fate and Legacy of Labor in American Politics

About the Series

American Social and Political Movements of the 20th Century

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / United States / General
HISTORY / United States / 20th Century
HISTORY / Social History