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A History of America in Ten Strikes

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  241 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Recommended by The Nation, the New Republic, Current Affairs, Bustle, In These Times

"Entertaining, tough-minded, strenuously argued."
--The Nation

A thrilling and timely account of ten moments in history when labor challenged the very nature of power in America, by the author called "a brilliant historian" by The Progressive magazine

Powerful and accessible, A History of
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published October 2nd 2018 by New Press (first published 2018)
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Bill Kerwin
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it

If the name “Erik Loomis” sounds familiar, that may be because you have read him in the politically progressive blog “Lawyers, Guns & Money” under the headings “Erik Visits a Grave" (410 entries to date) and “This Day in Labor History," in which he introduces his readers to such memorable events as the Creation of the Colored Farmer’s Alliance (1886), the Battle of Blair Mountain (1921), the Hard Hat Riot (1970), and the Kader Toy Fire (1993).

Loomis, a professor at the University of Rhode
Joseph Spuckler
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A History of America in Ten Strikes by Erik Loomis is a study of American history told through the labor movement. Loomis is an assistant professor of history at the University of Rhode Island. He blogs at Lawyers, Guns, and Money on labor and environmental issues past and present. His work has also appeared in AlterNet, Truthout, and Salon.

History is long, and memory is short. Three generations ago organized labor and collective bargaining were celebrated and credited with the growth of the
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is really good: very dense but somehow always interesting, heavy on anecdotes to demonstrate macro themes, and clear, sharp critics of (1) racism, sexism, and xenophobia that has plagued the US labor movement and (2) the violence used by corporations & all levels of government to squash worker power. Also, it includes a good explanation of how progressive labor rights were afforded to women through very gendered (and arguably sexist) legal arguments.

I’d recommend to anyone who
Mar 10, 2019 rated it liked it
A really great concept not well executed. Just go read Howard zinn or Eugene Debs. It’s dry and boring and there’s not much insight about the future
Dec 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, excellent book, and possibly my new favorite intro to the basics of US labor history.

What worked here:
This read as history, not as political theory. It feels like the author is studying these events with an eye to learn from them, not to retroactively apply an interpretation to advance an agenda. I appreciate this a lot in history writing.

And I learned a lot. We hear so much talk about the dismal state of organized labor, but really, when taking the long view, the situation is not
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even book giveaways make me sad. Thousands of people put their names in for the chance to win a single free copy of the latest silly romance novel or knuckleheaded apoca-prepper saga. By comparison, when I signed up to receive a free copy of this book via Netgalley, there was not even the suggestion that some poorly-paid employee of a dying publishing company might vet my application to see if I was a big enough influencer to merit a freebie. If I wanted this history of how long dead complete ...more
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Surprisingly readable! Good overview/intro to the history of labor movements in the US, pro-union without being hagiographic about it, pretty intersectional in scope.
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've been a big fan of Erik Loomis' writing over at Lawyers, Guns, and Money for years. Additionally, as I believe I mentioned in my review of John Nichols' The "S" Word, I had an American history event to run for DSA and nowhere near enough time to read Zinn for it! Fortunately, Loomis' new book A History of America in Ten Strikes, which I have been waiting for for several months, had the goodness to be published only three weeks ago, and the BPL system had some copies. I was able to cram ...more
Sep 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc, ebook-owned
In a time when organized labor and unions are on the decline, Loomis provides a fierce call to arms to not let US labor rights slip from our fingers. I really enjoyed reading about 10 of the most significant strikes in US history, especially the one he details of slaves to attempted to self-emancipate in the 1800s. I also appreciated his emphasis on how prioritizing racial identity over class identity has been detrimental to the overall progression of workers' rights.
Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is not one of those popular nonfiction books that reads like fiction. It summarizes a lot and drags down in detail. I can't say it's a fun read, but then, it is an important read, for providing a sweeping overview of labor struggles in the United States over time. If it feels repetitive, well, so does history.

I wish it had done what it advertised and focused just on the ten titular strikes, going into greater depth on less material, but rather it separates out a long narrative of many
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: labor
This is a dense, readable overview of labor history in the United States. The "Ten Strikes" framing is a little overstated - the ten specific strikes get a bit more elaboration than the other strikes discussed, but not much. It's more of a way to divide up the history into digestible chunks.

I appreciate the frank way Loomis discusses how racism, nativism and sexism have divided workers. I wish the book were a bit longer so he could provide more detail about what circumstances and choices
Annie Oosterwyk
An excellent and accessible account of the class conflict between labor and capitalists from the beginning of industrialization to the present day. Perfect for the high school audience.
Jim Gallen
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
A country’s history can focus on many things because the pageant of a country can be glimpsed through many facets. The labor movement of our country is part of our social and economic history and “A History of America In Ten Strikes” uses the ultimate labor weapon to reflect that history.

The first strike is the 1834 Lowell (Massachusetts) Mill Girls strike against the textile manufacturers that resulted in reducing the work week to sixty-nine hours. The second is the rolling strike of slaves who
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loomis wrote this popular history of labor uprisings in the United States, one shaped by ordinary and often powerless people banding together to improve their own lot in life. He frames this struggle as one of human beings reclaiming their own lives. He also deposits that there is little evidence that when governments and employers ally themselves to crush unions, they usually are successful and that labor's only hope in the long term is to put allies into government as well as strong grassroots ...more
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
This and other reviews can be found here.

Many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

A History of America in Ten Strikes by Erik Loomis is an informative non-fiction book focusing on the importance of strikes and what they they did for the working class of America. Loomis focuses on 10 strikes ranging from the Lowell Mill Girls Strike from 1930-1840 to Justice for Janitors in 1990.
The layout for this book was not what I expected,
Brenden Gallagher
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Concise yet thorough, brisk yet wide-ranging, Erik Loomis' "A History of America in 10 Strikes" does what Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" did for American History for the American Labor Movement.

Perhaps those more familiar with labor history than myself will find this material familiar, and Loomis does hit some events most high school history students have encountered, like Reagan breaking the air traffic controllers strike and clashes between IWW and Pinkertons. However,
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How refreshing to read a book that is so unabashedly pro worker and pro union. I grew up in a union household - my dad was a Teamster for most of his working life, but I also grew up in conservative Orange County, so I've heard union-bashing my entire life, sometimes even from folks who were currently members of a union!
Anyway, I thought I knew a lot about unions, but this book was a revelation. I knew some strikes had been violent, and some strikes hadn't brought about the changes that workers
John Plowright
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Erik Loomis in ‘A History of America in Ten Strikes’ makes no secret of the fact that he sides with those who “throughout American history … wanted to work and live with human dignity” and who thus felt periodically obliged to withdraw their labour, as the employers’ “goal is to exploit us” and they “treat us like garbage”. “Us” is the preferred pronoun of the Associate Professor to express his profound sense of identity and solidarity with the unionised.

This declared bias means that the
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Erik Loomis in his book A history of America in Ten Strikes looks at various moments of labor unrest through a socialist lense and tries to place them in the context of American history. The ultimate crux is in the form of government as an oppressor and only during times when government either remains neutral or sides with labor can the unions win. The 10 Strikes looked at are
1. Lowell Mill Girls
2. Slavery in America during the civil war (hard sell and not convinced by the end)
3. Eight Hour
Christopher Hayes
Sep 18, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is a well researched and informative take on an important and often ignored aspect of American history. However, it is plagued with poor editing and repetitive pontificating. The author presents a strong bias from the beginning and reminds you of it consistently. As a primer this book would be appropriate for members of a union who are active and have already formed their own opinions, and are just seeking to fill in gaps in their knowlidge. With strong fingerpointing that on occasion ...more
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this one pretty quickly and I read it a while ago, but it's well written and effective. It is a good history, as far as I know, of the 10 strikes in question, and shows that striking, work stopping, sabotage, and the like have been part of the American worker's arsenal since the beginning - and that American workers aren't just white men. I bought the book because of the second chapter, where the author discusses the striking of enslaved people in America, one of the most overlooked labor ...more
Kris Dersch
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, nonfiction
This was a great take on American history that I liked enough to overlook a lot of its flaws. Taking us chronologically through the history of American labor, it ties the labor struggle to other events in American history, not just the Industrial Revolution and the Cold War, which are often discussed in this context, but the Civil War, the Civil Rights movement, and other benchmarks in American history not often enough viewed through the lens of labor. Well-researched and readable, it was a ...more
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The focus of the book is not so much on the strikes as on the history of the labor movement from textile workers in New England and slaves' action during the Civil War to the 8-hour work day to the union-busting of the 1980's. It's a different picture of America than you get in high school history books, which is generally "look at all this progress we made, we are always moving forward and getting better" vs. this book, which is more "here's a fight where we were beaten, here's a fight where we ...more
Ed Barton
Jul 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A well written look at the history of the U.S. labor movement from the 17th Century to 2016. Written by a labor historian, and certainly a pro-union perspective on the labor movement, the book is well written - discussing 10 key moments that helped define the current state of the labor movement. While the title is a bit of an overreach - as the history of the country is intertwined with the labor movement but not dominated by it - the book is a must read for everyone interested in politics, ...more
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A total misnomer. There were like 80 million strikes in this book.

The first two strikes centered on the role of women, then of slaves. My first thought was, "Ok, this guy is hitting his diversity credit at the beginning." But really, the themes were present throughout. My experience digest history books is that there's a chapter on each minority, but the central story is about the white male experience. This book offers a thorough history of the misogyny & racism that plagued unions &
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really great if you're looking for an overview of major moments in US labor history. the book itself is pretty short but would serve as a good springboard for learning more in depth about various struggles. unfortunately the author concludes by imploring readers to continue to put faith in electoralism and specifically the Democratic Party who he believes can be pulled back to the left in order to elect pro-union politicians. one thing he does do really well it's discuss racism and misogyny that ...more
Ryan Macnair
Oct 16, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was fairly informative about various labor movements throughout American history. It definitely has its pro-labor and pro-liberal bias. It is pretty open about that. My only real issue was that it felt a bit repetitive. Basically every strike had the same means of getting things done and the government and the bosses had the same means of putting them down. In general though, it was pretty good to get a handle on individual strikes and the labor movement.
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As a union member who has been on strike many times, this book helped me understand the context and long history of unions in America and realize that there has always been a struggle among us workers. At least I’m not getting beaten up and killed while on strike. The cops are nice to us while striking.
I learned that America has always been a shitty capitalist society and things are no worse now than they have been before. Highly recommend this book to learn more about American history.
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An excellent primer on US labor history. At 229 pages Loomis packs a lot in. In each of ten chapters he centers on one major strike, but prefaces it with info on various other strikes as well, so the reader gets a well rounded general discussion of the various reasons and goals each "major" strike encompasses. The notes are very good as well, and includes a vast amount of supplementary writings for the readers continued investigations.
Meg Brown
Feb 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: labor, own, social-justice
There's some good stuff here. I especially appreciated the discussion of racism in the labor movement. But the tone switched on and off between "be radical... but not too radical" too much for me. Also, could have used more clarification on chronology--sometimes Loomis bounces around between decades in a single paragraph.
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