Book review: ‘Save our Unions’ a battle cry, and a must-read
by Michael Hirsch
Michael Hirsch is a New York City-based labor writer, former college professor, steel worker and union staff member. Hirsch has known Herman Benson since 1970, when he (Hirsch) got lost while jaunting in upstate woods and was rescued by the neighboring Benson.
Does Steve Early exist? Or is his the brand name for a syndicate of crack labor journalists who in James Thurber’s words “get the story and write the story,” but write it from the perspective of working people.
That’s a talent that often unappreciated, even by many unions.
And, yes, he exists.
When Early was in Vacaville, Cal., last year, covering the state’s contentious healthcare representation election, Early got an earful from one side and stony silence from the other. An email after the fact from the communications director of the state’s SEIU healthcare, whose organizers studiously passed on talking to Early, informed him that his union limits media responses to “legitimate journalists.” Even knowing the prickly back story—Early staunchly supports workplace organizing, rank and file activism and control by workers of their own unions, and is sceptical that the SEIU’s vaunted “partnering” with employers either has worked or can work in delivering anything beyond labor peace via substandard contracts—the slam that he is not a legitimate scribbler is bizarre.
The author of Embedded with Organized Labor and The Civil Wars in U.S. Labor, the latter a stinging indictment of the foibles of Change to Win and its break with the rest of organized labor, Early is a fecund, scrupulous and always informed writer. His slew of repeated contributions to dailies such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Enquirer and journals and magazines including Social Policy, Dissent, New Labor Forum, Labor Notes and others mark him as not only a consummate professional but a friend of working people. If union press flacks can talk to Investor’s Weekly, whose credulity barely rises above the expectations of day traders, they can talk to Early…