Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor (Hardcover)
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A revelatory and inclusive history of the American labor movement, from journalist Kim Kelly.
The history of organized labor in America all too often conjures a bygone era and generic images of slick-haired strongmen and hard-hatted construction workers. But in fact, one of America’s first unions was founded by Black Mississippi freedwomen in the 1860s. Jewish immigrant garment workers were instrumental in getting worker protections incorporated into FDR’s New Deal. Latino- and Asian-American farmworkers in California were 1970s pioneers in the fight for racial inclusion and a fair wage. And today, the Amazon warehouse employees fighting to unionize in Bessemer, Alabama are 85% Black.
In Fight Like Hell, Teen Vogue labor columnist and independent journalist Kim Kelly tells a definitive history of the labor movement and the people—workers, organizers, and their allies—who risked everything to win fair wages, better working conditions, disability protections, and an eight-hour workday. That history is a 1972 clothing company strike that saw 4,000 Chicana laborers start a boycott that swept the nation. It is Ida Mae Stull’s 1934 demand for the right to work in an Ohio coal mine alongside the men, and the enslaved Black women before her who weren’t given a choice. It’s Dorothy Lee Bolden’s 1960s rise from domestic workers’ union founder to White House anti-segregationist. It’s Mother Jones on the picket lines, and Lucy Parsons, Marie Equi, Ben Fletcher, and Frank Little’s militant battles against the ravages of capitalism. It’s the flight attendants union that pushed to root out sexual assault in the skies and ended a 2019 federal government shutdown. It’s the incarcerated workers organizing prison strikes for basic rights, and the sex workers building collective power outside the law. And it is Bayard Rustin, a queer civil rights pioneer who helped organize Dr. King’s March on Washington and promoted the alignment between movements for labor and civil rights.
As America grapples with the unfinished business of emancipation, the New Deal, and Johnson’s Great Society, Fight Like Hell offers a transportive look at the forgotten heroes who’ve sacrificed to make good on the nation’s promises. Kim Kelly’s publishing debut is both an inspiring read and a vital contribution to American history.
About the Author
Kim Kelly is a freelance journalist, author, and organizer based in Philadelphia. She has been a regular labor columnist for Teen Vogue since 2018, and her writing on labor, class, politics, and culture has appeared in The New Republic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Baffler, The Nation, The Columbia Journalism Review, and Esquire. Kelly has also worked as a video correspondent for More Perfect Union,The Real News Network, and Means TV. A third-generation union member, she was an original organizer of the VICE Union, and is now a member of the Industrial Workers of the World’s Freelance Journalist Union as well as an elected councilperson for the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE).