"They're Bankrupting Us!": And 20 Other Myths about Unions

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Overview

From Wisconsin to Washington, DC, the claims are made: unions are responsible for budget deficits, and their members are overpaid and enjoy cushy benefits. The only way to save the American economy, pundits claim, is to weaken the labor movement, strip workers of collective bargaining rights, and champion private industry. In "They're Bankrupting Us!": And 20 Other Myths about Unions, labor leader Bill Fletcher Jr. makes sense of this debate as he unpacks the twenty-one myths most often cited by ...
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Overview

From Wisconsin to Washington, DC, the claims are made: unions are responsible for budget deficits, and their members are overpaid and enjoy cushy benefits. The only way to save the American economy, pundits claim, is to weaken the labor movement, strip workers of collective bargaining rights, and champion private industry. In "They're Bankrupting Us!": And 20 Other Myths about Unions, labor leader Bill Fletcher Jr. makes sense of this debate as he unpacks the twenty-one myths most often cited by anti-union propagandists. Drawing on his experiences as a longtime labor activist and organizer, Fletcher traces the historical roots of these myths and provides an honest assessment of the missteps of the labor movement. He reveals many of labor's significant contributions, such as establishing the forty-hour work week and minimum wage, guaranteeing safe workplaces, and fighting for equity within the workforce. This timely, accessible, "warts and all" book argues, ultimately, that unions are necessary for democracy and ensure economic and social justice for all people.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In his latest, labor leader Fletcher (Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path Toward Social Justice) tackles the subject of labor unions and the slanderous assault they’ve endured in the media. Divided into 21 sections, each focused on a different myth, readers learn about the history of labor reform in America—from its humble beginnings at the end of the world wars, through the civil rights and women’s movements, until today. The argument that the ”employer class” holds incredible influence in the workplace feels timely, and the ways in which unions can help level the playing field is clearly rendered. The book is at its best when offering nuanced evaluations of America unions, acknowledging past shortcomings with regard to membership diversity or organizational failures. However, the book doesn’t address the necessity of unions in a time when jobs are being outsourced to countries where employees make fewer demands. While global unionization and outsourcing are touched upon, the dwindling job market feels like an oversight that hangs over much of the book. Though the benefits that labor unions have with regard to negotiations and creating a positive work environment are numerous, they are irrelevant if the jobs are not there to begin with. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
"Coming from a union family helped shape who I am today. Unions have been critical for African Americans, and for all working people, and are essential for social justice. Read Bill Fletcher's important and timely book so we can reassert the humanity of working people and help them stand against the larger societal forces that are trying to crush them.”—Danny Glover, actor/activist

“As someone who has written about the daily lives and struggles of working people I am constantly impressed and enlightened by Bill Fletcher's work. In “They’re Bankrupting Us!” he answers the question of why unions are so essential—not just for economic uplift, but for democracy itself. Fletcher is one of our leading labor intellectuals, and once again, he has the last word on a subject of central importance to all Americans.”—Barbara Ehrenreich

“It’s amazing how much nonsense about unions is believed, and how little is really known about their purpose and proud history. Bill Fletcher sets the record straight, and he tells us a thrilling story while doing it. A thriving union movement is crucial to the well-being of working men and women and to the overall health of our democratic way of life. This book – better than any other I’ve read – explains why.”—Bob Herbert, Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos and former Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times

"Isn't it curious that the loudest, most venomous voices against unions are the CEOs and Wall Streeters who profit by keeping America's working families down and unions out? In this powerful book, Bill Fletcher exposes their self-serving lies, and points out the obvious: unions work. Not only do they advance our economy, but also our democracy and our nation's historic pursuit of social justice."—Jim Hightower, author, radio commentator, public speaker, and editor of The Hightower Lowdown

"Even before I read Bill Fletcher's new book, I knew it was a 'must read.' Having read it now, my instincts have been confirmed. Bill Fletcher is a brilliant thinker in Ella Baker's tradition. He is an organizer extraordinaire who writes from thirty years experience in labor and freedom movements. “They’re Bankrupting Us!” speaks to a very broad audience about the diversity, complexity and vitality of the United States labor movement. And who better to tell that story and teach that lesson, than this amazing intellectual, committed activist and tireless movement teacher."—Barbara Ransby, Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago and author of Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement
 
"Bill Fletcher's new book is a must read for every worker in America. Full of surprising stories and useful facts, "They're Bankrupting Us!" uncovers everything we ever wanted to know about how unions work, and the true role that unions have played in shaping the nature of our work today."—Ai-jen Poo, Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance

Kirkus Reviews
Talking points to help trade unionists and their supporters rebut conservative attacks. Fletcher (co-author: Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice, 2009, etc.), the director of field services for the American Federation of Government Employees, organizes his argument as a refutation of 21 "myths" that opponents typically use to discredit unions. His historical context begins in the early 19th century, when unionists fought bloody battles to win the right to organize. By the end of World War II, at the height of their power, unions had consolidated gains won during the New Deal. They were considered to be "a part of the so-called mainstream," although their numbers never exceeded "35 percent of the non-agricultural workforce." A turnabout began during the Reagan administration, when the president fired striking air traffic controllers. Fletcher makes a strong case that the slogan "right to work" is a misnomer because without a labor organization to defend their interests, individual workers are without job protection. In answer to the first myth--"Workers are forced to join unions, right?" he responds, "The phrasing of a right to work statutes suggest they are about freedom of choice. Actually, they are not. They are about weakening the ability of workers--as a group--from exerting any sort of power." Throughout, the author elaborates on the theme of the necessity of workers to be free to organize in order to fight for their own rights and also to stand up for social justice. He suggests that deceptive language is deliberately used to disparage unions and that today, unions are becoming increasingly marginalized by unemployment and outsourcing. These circumstances can only be turned around, writes Fletcher, when people assume responsibility for fighting for social justice for all working men and women. An effective presentation of the importance of trade unions in a democracy.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807003329
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 8/28/2012
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 339,628
  • Product dimensions: 5.66 (w) x 8.32 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Bill Fletcher Jr. is a long-time racial-justice, labor, and international activist, scholar, and author.  He has been involved in the labor movement for decades, and is a widely known speaker and writer in print and on radio, television, and the Web. He has served in leadership positions with many prominent union and labor organizations, including the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union. Fletcher is currently the director of field services for the American Federation of Government Employees.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2012

    Very educational

    The book They're Bankrupting Us by Bill Fletcher is a very good book for someone who has no idea what unions are about. It covers very important part of the day by day fundamentals of unions. I would recommend it to anyone who has no idea what unions are like especially if I understand they are uneducated of what unions are. So if anyone wants to comment of my review of this book I would appreciate them reading this book before making their comments. Also great if someone needs to brush on their on their union basics.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2012

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