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A History of America in Ten Strikes

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  386 ratings  ·  82 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
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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 Island
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
bianca guerrero
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 didn’t
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
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 st ...more
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
Mack Hayden
Feb 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics, america
This book is immensely informative for its brevity, but Loomis's writing struck me as pretty bone dry. Oftentimes, it feels like a recitation of facts with not much narrative finesse at all. Still, I've yet to come across another book this short with this much information about the history of labor movements in the United States, so even if he's not the best storyteller, he's certainly a capable historian. The chapters on slave strikes and the '80s Air Traffic Controllers strike were the most in ...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.
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 allowe
Sep 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: ebook-owned, arc
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. ...more
Aug 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Read my Review on my blog:

A rich but readable account of American labor history that is refreshingly honest about both its successes and its challenges.

Eric Loomis is a professor of history at the University of Rhode Island, but is perhaps more well known as a History blogger at Lawyers, Guns, and Money, and for his "This Day in Labor History" series. This book is a cogent coalescence of that series, which provides a periodization of American labor histo
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 stri
Nov 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"Too often we identify with our bosses and our companies instead of with our fellow workers. Your boos is not your friend. Without a union, your boss can fire you at will. And while you might be the best worker the company has ever seen, you have no power to control your own destiny without a union." ...more
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.
Edward Rathke
Dec 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: us-history
I don't really know what I expected or wanted from this book, but I didn't really get it.

I mean, it is exactly what it says it is. It's basically ten case studies on what happens when labor organizes. The takeaway is that no amount of organizing labor can withstand the combined resistance of corporations and government. Which is why organized labor failed throughout the 19th century, succeeded from the beginning of FDR until Jimmy Carter, and then collapsed and has continued to be crushed since
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,
Andrew Figueiredo
Jun 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
I'm torn between 3 and 4 stars, mainly because it's not what I expected coming in. Loomis doesn't hone in on 10 particular strikes, with each chapter representing more a chapter in the American labor movement. This is valuable, but I found it short on details related to the purported list of 10. Would have liked more thorough explanations of specific strikes instead of a cursory glance at a bunch of them. This book also reads a little too much like a hyperbolic op-ed at times. Loomis can be grat ...more
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 argumen
Jul 16, 2020 added it
Shelves: 2018-19
In 'A History of America in Ten Strikes', Erik Loomis discusses the particular events and the political and social contexts of ten of the most iconic labor movements in United States history. Though he starts with the onset of the industrial revolution Lowell Mills strike at the textile mills of Massachussetts and ends with the Justice for Janitors movement in California, he also alludes to slave revolts prior to the revolution and how slavery shaped how the United States would view workers fore ...more
Joseph Spuckler
Oct 08, 2020 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 mid
Oct 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I would like to thank GR giveaways and The New Press for my copy of this book.

I would like to start this review by stating that I am not normally a fan of non-fiction, and that my opinions should be viewed in that light. Overall, I found this book well put together, moderately interesting and moderately well written. I did feel like the author had first come up with a conclusion or point that he wanted to make, and then wrote the book backwards to prove his point.

The premise of the book is a rev
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
Casey Wagner
I read this book in conjunction with Priscilla Murolo's From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend, which I think was both added to the experience and took away from it in ways. As the title states, Erik Loomis gives a heartily condensed US history "through the prism of labor struggle". Given its relatively short length of ~225 pages compared to the much thicker Weekend, this book works best if viewed as a rough summary of the major takeaways from each era in American history. I enjoyed this asp ...more
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
This was fascinating and I'm embarrassed by just how little of it I knew beforehand, though in my defense it's been just about 20 years since I took AP US History. Anyway. I enjoyed this and learned a lot from it, and I appreciate how straightforward and clear-eyed Loomis is about organized labor - while he's clearly on the side of workers throughout, he's also definitely willing to point out where racism or sexism or just flat-out terrible leadership undermined the movement's ability to succeed ...more
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