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Tell the Bosses We’re Coming: A New Action Plan for Workers in the Twenty-First Century


Lengthening hours, lessening pay, no parental leave, scant job security… Never have so many workers needed so much support. Yet the very labor unions that could garner us protections and help us speak up for ourselves are growing weaker every day. In an age of rampant inequality, of increasing social protest and strikes—and when a majority of workers say they want to be union members—why does union density continue to decline? Shaun Richman offers some answers in his book, Tell the Bosses We’re Coming.

It’s time to bring unions back from the edge of institutional annihilation, says Richman. But that is no simple proposition. Richman explains how important it is that this book is published now, because the next few years offer a rare opportunity to undo the great damage wrought on labor by decades of corporate union-busting, if only union activists raise our ambitions. Based on deft historical research and legal analysis, as well as his own experience as a union organizing director, Richman lays out an action plan for U.S. workers in the twenty-first century by which we can internalize the concept that workers are equal human beings, entitled to health care, dignity, job security—and definitely, the right to strike. Unafraid to take on some of the labor movement’s sacred cows, this book describes what it would take—some changes that are within activists’ power and some that require meaningful legal reform—to put unions in workplaces across America. As Shaun Richman says, “I look forward to working with you.”

Shaun Richman is a critical voice in the fight for workers’ rights in the New Gilded Age and Tell the Bosses is a manifesto for real change to give workers power over their jobs.

—Erik Loomis, author, A History of America in Ten Strikes

By directly tackling ‘questions that agitate and annoy,’ Richman calls on all of us to rethink the orthodoxy of labor organizing and activism. We can’t rest on what we know if we want worker-led movements to thrive, and Richman’s work issues a challenge to all of us to think critically and examine our own work in a different way.

—Sara Nelson, President, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO

Shaun Richman challenges our assumptions and orthodoxies about what it would take to rebuild and revive the labor movement. He asks provocative questions and poses solutions that force us all out of our comfort zone. His book makes it clear that tweaking existing laws and trying to operate under the existing legal framework and models of unionism is a road to nowhere but a continued slide into irrelevance for unions.

—Stephen Lerner, Bargaining for the Common Good Fellow, at Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor

Shaun covers it all in his wide ranging narrative, often from his own labor staff experience, and often from secondary historical accounts. He includes public and private, formal and informal sectors in his call for a clean break from inherited structures and old ideas. Innovative strike tactics, thinking big, replacing the US labor law strangulation, it’s all covered with many examples and a humble request that we all get moving.

—Larry Cohen, Chairman of Our Revolution; past President of CWA

Shaun Richman spent a decade and a half as a union organizer and representative. He is the Program Director of the Harry Van Arsdale Jr. School of Labor Studies at SUNY Empire State College. His writing has been published in The American Prospect, In These Times, Jacobin, The New York Daily News, and The New York Times, among other outlets.

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SKU: mrp8565 Categories: , , Tag:

Number of Pages: 256

Publication Date: May 2020

Cloth ISBN: 978-1-58367-856-5

eBook ISBN: 978-1-58367-857-2