Livingston & McLean County Labor
Bloomington & Normal Trades & Labor Assembly / Livingston & McLean Counties Building & Trades Council
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  • Labor Culture
    This page contains reviews of labor-related books, films and music.
    Mar 21, 2022
    “The difference working in a nonunion mine and a union mine was like jumping out of the fire into a cool stream of water,” recalled Matewan, West Virginia miner Kelly Buchanan in 1972. Buchanan’s stark life tale of organizing, coal mining and fierce confrontations highlights the real life experience of miners who survived the fierce West Virginia coal wars of 1920-21.
    Mar 21, 2022
    U.S. Southern racial segregation is represented in stark images: separate drinking fountains, waiting rooms clearly marked, all portraying a clear, racial dividing line. Yet each state, town, county had its own variations – a Black individual crossing a county line entered unknown territory.
    Jan 09, 2022
    Born in Blackness: Africa, Africans and the Making of the Modern World, 1471 to the Second World War By Howard W. French W.W. Norton, New York, 2021 Enslaved peoples’ labor built the U.S. and European economy, but what did it do to Africa.
    Dec 17, 2021
    How could a worker vote for Donald Trump? – head to the factory floor for the answer American Made: What Happens to People When Work Disappears By Farah Stockman, 2021 Random-House, New York “How could a worker vote for Donald Trump?” was a common refrain these past five years.
    Oct 13, 2021
    America on Fire: The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion since the 1960s By Elizabeth Hinton W.W. Norton Publisher On Monday night and in the early morning of Tuesday, July 30, Peoria Police and residents of the south side Taft Homes fought a running battle, with bottles, rocks and even a shotgun aimed at police, injuring rookie officer Al Misener.
    May 15, 2021
    “…we are lost, so naked and so lonely in America.  Immense and cruel skies bend over us, and all of us are driven on forever and we have no home.
    May 29, 2020
    It’s a long and tortured path from the April 18, 1836 burning alive of free African-American Francis McIntosh in downtown St. Louis to 2014’s police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. In The Broken Heart Harvard’s Walter Johnson claims that St.
    Mar 26, 2020
    When are those opportune moments when workers project power, causing national repercussions and frightening political and corporate structures? Analyzing those moments, finding the critical mass of not only anger, but opportunity, is the focus of Robert Ovetz’s When Workers Shot Back.
    Mar 25, 2020
    A new word, “opioid” has entered the American vocabulary, a catch-all for addictive pain killers like Oxy-Contin that often lead sufferers to heroin, crime and a downward spiral. While African-Americans were targeted with the crack cocaine epidemic, it is white people with a high school education who are dying today.
    Mar 03, 2020
    In Peoria, Rock Island, Aurora and Decatur, the economies depend on Caterpillar and John Deere.  Working families’ lives are transformed positively or negatively, depending upon the United Auto Workers’ contract. Few remember that the UAW’s heavy equipment roots were nurtured by a 1930s radical union, the United Farm Equipment Workers of America (FE).
    Mar 03, 2020
    One day alcohol is bad for you, the next, a glass of red wine is healthy.  We are told too much sugar is bad, but an outcry results with any challenge to our sweet drinks. Who to believe? Believe if there’s a profit to be made it will be made, whether it’s good for you or not.
    Oct 29, 2019
    What happens to people left behind when the economy disappears?  How do they see themselves and their struggling lives? We’re Still Here is a telling chronicle of a once-thriving Eastern Pennsylvania coal town, where dangerous underground mining formerly ensured economic vitality and decent, unionized jobs.
    Aug 23, 2019
    The Ordeal of The Jungle: Race & The Chicago Federation of Labor, 1903-1922 By David Bates, Southern Illinois University Press There are so many ways to define us—gender, economic status, race, sexual orientation, age... American labor is full of valiant moments, when workers came together in common cause, regardless of their background.
    Jul 22, 2019
    BLOOMINGTON — For 33 years, the Bloomington-Normal labor history mural served as the backdrop for union meetings, rallies and political gatherings.
    Dec 18, 2018
    In 1894, the U.S. came to a standstill as millionaire George Pullman (1831-1897) faced off against railroad workers, led by Eugene Debs (1855-1926) and the American Railway Union.   Commerce halted, blood was spilt and streets battles raged.  The Edge of Anarchy brings this epic struggle to vivid life in a readable, accessible fashion.
    Sep 13, 2018
    Political chaos reigns in Chicago with Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s announcement not to seek reelection.  Race and class fissures are again apparent as potential candidates vie. Roger Biles’ new biography of Mayor Harold Washington (1922-1987), whether intentional or not, raises the question, what if Chicago politics was on a very different course.
    Sep 04, 2018
    A labor film for the 21st century Does the 21st century finally have the labor movie it deserves? Look no further than Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, an outlandish yet telling mix of old-fashioned workplace confrontation, race and gender relations mixed in an outlandish stew of hyper-capitalism.
    Oct 17, 2017
    Anger is a powerful emotion and the connecting link in Grown-up Anger: The Connected Mysteries of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and the Calumet Massacre of 1913, by Daniel Wolff. The three might seem an unlikely combination in a book that ranges through biography, musical criticism and labor history.
    Sep 29, 2017
    A Great Vision: A Militant Family’s Journey through the 20th Century Where does the inspiration come to devote one’s life and energy to improving the human condition?   What makes a person willing to sacrifice their own safety and well-being to organize a union.
    Nov 30, 2016
    A novel about a union battle?  “Yawn” might be the response, unless that novel includes gun battles, dynamite and sadistic sex. Throw Out the Water tells a family tale, as Illinois miners fight a unique and bloody coal fields battle. Now most coal field stories feature a greedy company, collapsing mines and exploited but militant miners.
    Aug 08, 2016
    reviewed by Mike Matejka Leaving their air-conditioned office, what goes through someone’s mind when they pass a construction site on a sticky-humid August day? Do the motorists give a thought to the men and women in the bright orange and lime green Ts behind the asphalt paver.
    Jun 28, 2016
    Food in the Gilded Age: What Ordinary Americans Ate, by Robert Dirks   If we go back 100-plus years ago, what did our grandparents and great-grandparents eat, before the days of golden arches, microwaves and frozen pizza? With a scrupulous look at early diet research, retired Illinois State University anthropologist Rob Dirks reconstructed the food ways of America’s workers.
    Mar 30, 2016
    What’s your image of a detective? Sherlock Holmes in his deerslayer hat, magnifying glass at the ready? Humphrey Bogart as the tough guy, a cigarette hanging out of his mouth? A femme fatale in a revealing red evening gown, slowly and seductively pulling information from some unwitting male? Meet Lenny Moss. He mops bathroom floors and hospital hallways.
    Jan 21, 2016
    Every movement - labor, women, civil rights - has its music.  No American political effort used music more effectively and burrowed itself into the national song track like the 1960s Civil Rights fight. Drawing on gospel, jazz, blues and spirituals, a rich musical texture overlaid the effort.   We Shall Overcome became an international anthem, adapted to many causes and efforts.
    Nov 16, 2015
    “Joe Hill has never died” -- if you are of a certain generation, you remember Woodstock and Joan Baez singing an “organizing song” about some guy named Joe Hill. Joe Hill was real -- a Swedish immigrant who became a vocal union organizer, executed by Utah in 1915, charged with a murder which many claim was trumped up.
    Sep 30, 2015
    Joe Hill’s Last Will by John McCuthcheon, Appalsongs On November 19, 1915, a Swedish immigrant, Joel Emmanuel Hagglund, was executed by a firing squad in Salt Lake City, Utah, charged with murdering a grocer. That event might be long forgotten, except that immigrant was better known for his anglicized name, “Joe Hill.
    Sep 30, 2015
    Are we our jobs, or are we more?  The eight or more hours we spent working daily often defines \ our life.  Even when retired, we refer back to the job we once had.   Yet who ever looks beneath the surface to see a person, not just an occupation, an individual with dreams and aspirations.
    Sep 04, 2015
    Here’s two new children’s books with a workers’ rights theme and two new musical compilations by local artists. Hardball Press has two just released titles for children, for more information, go to Joelito’s Big Decision by Ann Berlak, illustrated by Daniel Camacho, features a young man making a hard choice.
    Jul 27, 2015
    No one in American labor history has won the mythic status of Mary “Mother” Jones (1837-1930). This Irish immigrant, who lost her family to disease and her business to the Great Chicago Fire, became the nation’s roving rabble-rouser in the final third of her life.   Traveling from picket line to coal mine to jail cells, this spirited figure rallied many a strike.
    May 26, 2015
    Though we all eat multiple times a day, fewer Americans have direct connections to the land.  The rural population is smaller and bigger machinery and consolidations have left rural communities vacant. Remembering agriculture 50 years ago is the theme of Alan Guebert’s Land of Milk & Uncle Honey.
    May 20, 2015
    The Devil Is Here In These Hills: West Virginia Coal Miners and their Battle for Freedom, by James Green,  Atlantic Monthly Press, ISBN 978-0-8021-2331-2   $28.
    Apr 06, 2015
    Metro-east artist Paul Martin Butkovich, a Laborers 338 member & a famed artist
    Feb 02, 2015
    Famous activist and union members get remembered, but what about the everyday people who strive to make life better in their own community? Tina Stewart Brakebill, an ISU history instructor, has done that for Barbara (Barbe) Lennon (1881-1983), a Bloomington teacher, activist and mother who strove to represent her profession and improve local conditions.
    Sep 04, 2014
    What did you learn at work today? by Helena Worthen We all learn something new.  We learn from school, family and friends, and much of what we learn is on the job.  That can not only mean job skills, but also learning human personalities, workplace issues and basic job justice.
    Sep 04, 2014
    Skilled Hands, Strong Spirits: A century of Building Trades History  by Grace Palladino  Cornell University Press  ISBN 978-0-8014-7414-9  Reviewed by Mike Matejka  Almost every construction trades worker has been at a union meeting or on the job where that infamous word “jurisdictional dispute” has arisen.
    Sep 04, 2014
    The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future  By Joseph Stiglitz  Norton & Company, 2012  ISBN 978-0-393-08869-4  Reviewed by Mike Matejka  Economics, the study of how we earn and spend our hard-earned pay, can be dry stuff, often lost in obscure charts and mathematical models.
    Sep 04, 2014
    Money Well Spent?  The Truth Behind the Trillion-Dollar Stimulus, the Biggest Economic Recovery Plan in History  By Michael Grabell  Public Affairs $27.99  ISBN: 9781610390095  Reviewed by Mike Matejka  The stimulus is often slammed in the news media as a failure. The $825 billion stimulus package is reviled by conservatives as a deficit lead weight.
    Sep 04, 2014
    The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan (Simon & Schuster)  Behind the Kitchen Door by Saru Jayaraman (Cornell University Press)  The Chicken Trail: Following Workers, Migrants and Corporations Across the Americas by Kathleen C. Schwartzman(Cornell University Press)  Reviewed by Mike Matejka We have become a food conscious and an eating out nation.
    Sep 04, 2014
    The Ghost of Woody Guthrie  CD by Bucky Halker & Andy Dee  Reviewed by Mike Matejka  Woodrow Wilson Guthrie (1912-1967) is an American musical genius few people know, outside of leftists and folkies, but we sing his songs.
    Sep 04, 2014
    American Railroad Labor & the Genesis of the New Deal, 1919 - 1935  by Jon R. Huibregtse  University Press of Florida  ISBN 978-0-8130-3465-2  reviewed by Michael G. Matejka  In the telling of labor’s story, the 1930s is the seminal, triumphant decade. With a sympathetic President, Franklin D.
    Sep 04, 2014
    The internet and e-mail can be a wonderful thing, but they also bring some strange things inside our homes.   Suddenly you are a multi-millionaire, if only you will give a Siberian or a Nigerian your bank account; a friend is stranded in London (Madrid, Paris, take your pick) with their passport and wallet stolen, send money now.

    Page Last Updated: Mar 21, 2022 (12:08:43)
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