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markk

Delving into labor history

John L. Lewis: A Biography - Melvyn Dubofsky, Warren Van Tine

Today a former classmate of mine messaged me to say that a professor we knew from graduate school had died last week. While I never really knew him (I doubt we exchanged more than greetings in all of my time there), he was a real institution, known for his work in business history, and I went to the department's website to read his bio before it was removed.

 

As I went over his CV, one of his books caught my attention. It was a biography he wrote decades ago on Samuel Gompers, the longtime leader of the American Federation of Labor. Seeing it there reminded me about one of my long-ago resolutions to read more labor history, something that I have neglected for far too long. There are many reasons for this, but the one that matters is that I find it a depressing subject: too much of it is about the thwarting of the efforts of ordinary people to earn a living wage for their daily drudgery. Yet with Labor Day approaching and my recently having gained greater flexibility in my reading choices, I decided that the time has come to start filling in the gap by reading a few biographies of labor leaders. I ordered a copy of Dubofsky's classic on John L. Lewis (which I passed up an opportunity to buy years ago and yes, I still remember that and I'm still annoyed with myself about it), and I may try to squeeze in one or two more while the opportunity lasts.

 

And one of those that I'm going to squeeze in is that Gompers biography. I feel like I owe it to that old curmudgeon.