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Three strikes : miners, musicians, salesgirls, and the fighting spirit of labor's last century /

Main Author: Zinn, Howard, 1922-
Other Authors: Frank, Dana., Kelley, Robin D. G.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Boston : Beacon Press, 2001
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Review by Booklist Review

When conservatives denounce "radical historians," the authors Zinn (now retired), Dana Frank of the University of California at Santa Cruz, and Robin D. G. Kelley of New York University are probably high on their lists. One mark of such "radicals" is their insistence that history can instruct the present. In this volume, Zinn chronicles the 1913-14 Colorado coal strike, which pitted immigrant miners against robber barons; Frank describes a little-known Depression-era strike by Woolworth's counter girls in Detroit; and Kelley studies a New York musicians' strike against movie theaters. The Colorado strike that produced the Ludlow Massacre is one of the few labor actions mentioned in most American histories, but Zinn offers new insights into the intense class conflict the strike revealed. In the Woolworth strike, young women found surprising ways to fight for their goals and subvert stereotypes. The failed musicians' strike dramatizes technological displacement, solidarity's limits, and conflicting ideas about work itself. Provocative analysis of still relevant issues, as the passionate, sometimes violent demonstrations at international meetings on the global economy demonstrate. --Mary Carroll

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

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 na?vet? 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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Top-drawer narrative histories of two important strikes, and a more amorphous consideration of musicians' rights to their work, from three progressive historians. Zinn (The Future of History, 1999, etc.) tackles the Colorado coal strike of 1913-14, during which 11 children and 2 women were found burned to death under tents set ablaze by National Guardsmen in a notorious incident known as the Ludlow Massacre. Zinn is a fine storyteller, keeping the tone low but passionate as he makes plain as day the many evils of John D. Rockefeller Jr.'s coal operation, a veritable fiefdom unto itself, keeping workers in its harness from cradle to grave. He also does a good job highlighting how the New York Times acted in collusion with the coal operators as part of a larger cultural air-brushing of dramatic and violent labor events into oblivion. Frank (American Studies/UC Santa Cruz; Buy American, 1999) displays a jazzier style as he recreates the Woolworth's sit-down strike of 1937 in Detroit. ("Woolworth's was a palace built for working-class people. The big fluted columns were made of concrete, not marble, then painted shiny bright colors.") He too stands foursquare behind the strikers: young white women, poorly paid in dead-end jobs, caught in the revolving door of unskilled work. The radical Waiters' and Waitresses' Union of Detroit capitalized on the canny tactic of the sit-down strike, which kept owners from locking out workers and hiring scabs, and the women managed to subvert journalists' preoccupation with their sex. Kelley (History/NYU; Race Rebels, 1994) tries to get a sense of musicians' rights through the unsuccessful American Federation of Musicians strike against theater owners in 1936. The topic is unwieldy, as can be seen when looking at today's controversies Napster and MP3, and Kelley's broader question-voiced, not answered-is "what happens when working-class consumption of popular culture overrides the interests or concerns of popular culture workers?" Important material out of the shadows to which so much labor history is exiled.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.