Book of the Month Archive

No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age (Feb 2017)

Jane F. McAlevey

The crisis of the progressive movement is so evident that nothing less than a fundamental rethinking of its basic assumptions is required. Today's progressives now work for professional organizations more comfortable with the inside game in Washington DC (and capitols throughout the West), where they are outmatched and outspent by corporate interests. Labor unions now focus on the narrowest possible understanding of the interests of their members, and membership continues to decline in lockstep with the narrowing of their goals. Meanwhile, promising movements like Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter lack sufficient power to accomplish meaningful change. Why do progressives in the United States keep losing on so many issues?

In No Shortcuts, Jane McAlevey argues that progressives can win, but lack the organized power to enact significant change, to outlast their bosses in labor fights, and to hold elected leaders accountable. Drawing upon her experience as a scholar and longtime organizer in the student, environmental, and labor movements, McAlevey examines cases from labor unions and social movements to pinpoint the factors that helped them succeed - or fail - to accomplish their intended goals. McAlevey makes a compelling case that the great social movements of previous eras gained their power from mass organizing, a strategy today's progressives have mostly abandoned in favor of shallow mobilization or advocacy. She ultimately concludes that, in order to win, progressive movements need strong unions built from bottom-up organizing strategies that place the power for change in the hands of workers and ordinary people at the community level.

Beyond the concrete examples in this book, McAlevey's arguments have direct implications for anyone involved in organizing for social change. Much more than cogent analysis, No Shortcuts explains exactly how progressives can go about rebuilding powerful movements at work, in our communities, and at the ballot box. [from publisher web site]

New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 253 pages
ISBN: 9780190624712
Call number: HM766 .M4293 2016

Envy at Work and in Organizations (Jan 2017)

Richard H. Smith, Ugo Merlone, Michelle Duffy (Eds.)

Competition for resources, recognition, and outcomes is a fact of life in organizational life. When one falls short in comparison to colleagues or subordinates, feelings of envy may arise. Envy is ubiquitous and painful fueled by inferiority, hostility, and resentment. At the same time envy is also a socially adaptive emotion signaling competitive disadvantages that must be dealt with. How people cope with envy at work continues to be a debated topic. Will they “level up” with their envied counterpart through self-improvement behaviors? Or will they “level down” through sabotage and undermining their peers and subordinates? The contributors to this volume, culled from many countries and an extraordinary range of disciplines, provide key insights into these and other question about workplace envy. Perspectives range from experimental social psychologists offering insights from lab studies to psychoanalytical oriented scholars with their emphasis on unconscious processes. Organizational psychologists also weigh in and describe ground-breaking findings from disparate work settings. Cross-cultural psychologists reveal the wide variety of ways that envy can emerge as a function of culture, ranging from the Japanese school system, to complex social systems of Java, and the fascinating structure of the Israeli kibbutzim. Also included are contemporary work by behavioral economists and organizational consultants, as well as an eclectic group of chapters focused on romantic relationships, leadership, and justice. This volume should also help scholars and practitioners understand the factors that help individuals and organizations overcome envy, indeed transform envy into something positive, thereby promoting workplace well-being. [from publisher web site]

New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 522 pages
ISBN: 9780190228057
Call number: BF575.E65 E577 2017

Clearing the Air: The Rise and Fall of Smoking in the Workplace (Dec 2016)

Gregory Wood

In Clearing the Air, Gregory Wood examines smoking's importance to the social and cultural history of working people in the twentieth-century United States. Now that most workplaces in the United States are smoke-free, it may be difficult to imagine the influence that nicotine addiction once had on the politics of worker resistance, workplace management, occupational health, vice, moral reform, grassroots activism, and the labor movement. The experiences, social relations, demands, and disputes that accompanied smoking in the workplace in turn shaped the histories of antismoking politics and tobacco control.

The steady expansion of cigarette smoking among men, women, and children during the first half of the twentieth century brought working people into sustained conflict with managers’ demands for diligent attention to labor processes and work rules. Addiction to nicotine led smokers to resist and challenge policies that coldly stood between them and the cigarettes they craved. Wood argues that workers’ varying abilities to smoke on the job stemmed from the success or failure of sustained opposition to employer policies that restricted or banned smoking. During World War II, workers in defense industries, for example, struck against workplace smoking bans. By the 1970s, opponents of smoking in workplaces began to organize, and changing medical knowledge and dwindling union power contributed further to the downfall of workplace smoking. The demise of the ability to smoke on the job over the past four decades serves as an important indicator of how the power of workers’ influence in labor-management relations has dwindled over the same period. [from publisher web site]


Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, an imprint of Cornell University Press. 248 pages
ISBN: 9781501704826

Precarious Claims: The Promise and Failure of Workplace Protections in the United States (Nov 2016)

Shannon Gleeson

Precarious Claims tells the human story behind the bureaucratic process of fighting for justice in the U.S. workplace. The global economy has fueled vast concentrations of wealth that have driven a demand for cheap and flexible labor. Workplace violations such as wage theft, unsafe work environments, and discrimination are widespread in low-wage industries such as restaurants, retail, hospitality, and domestic work, where jobs are often held by immigrants and other vulnerable workers. Despite the challenges they face, these workers do seek justice. Why and how do they come forward,and what happens once they do? Based on extensive fieldwork in Northern California, Shannon Gleeson investigates the array of gatekeepers with whom workers must negotiate in the labor standards enforcement bureaucracy and, ultimately, the limited reach of formal legal protections. Gleeson also tracks how workplace injustices—and the arduous process of contesting them—have long-term effects on their everyday lives. Workers sometimes win, but their chances are precarious at best. [from publisher web site]

This book is also available as an Open Access (OA) monograph.  See

Oakland, CA: University of California Press. 177 pages
ISBN: 9780520288782
Call number: HD8066 .G54 2017

Invisible Labor: Hidden Work in the Contemporary World (Oct 2016)

Marion G. Crain, Winifred R. Poster, Miriam A. Cherry (Editors)

Across the world, workers labor without pay for the benefit of profitable businesses—and it's legal. Labor trends like outsourcing and technology hide some workers, and branding and employer mandates erase others. Invisible workers who remain under-protected by wage laws include retail workers who function as walking billboards and take payment in clothing discounts or prestige; waitstaff at “breastaurants” who conform their bodies to a business model; and inventory stockers at grocery stores who go hungry to complete their shifts. Invisible Labor gathers essays by prominent sociologists and legal scholars to illuminate how and why such labor has been hidden from view. [from publisher web site]

Oakland, California : University of California Press. 311 pages
ISBN: 9780520286405
Call number: HD4855 .I58 2016

The Agenda Mover: When Your Idea is Not Enough (Sep 2016)

Samuel B. Bacharach

Organizations, institutions, and individuals get stuck in spite of their innovative ideas and ambitious agendas.

Never has the timing been better for a book that cuts through the theoretical jargon and delineates the exact political and managerial skills leaders need to move agendas forward. Whether you're a team leader trying to lead change and innovation in a large corporation, an entrepreneur trying to gain support, a politician trying to expand your coalition, or an individual trying to advance your career and build networks, The Agenda Mover will give you the political and managerial leadership skills necessary to achieve results.

Based on the premise that leadership competencies and skills can be learned, The Agenda Mover is the inaugural volume of the practitioner-oriented BLG Pragmatic Leadership™ Series published in association with Cornell University Press. Each volume emphasizes specific skills of execution that leaders at all levels need to master. [from publisher web site]

Ithaca, NY; London: BLG Books, an imprint of Cornell University Press. 168 pages
ISBN: 9781501710001
Call number: HD57.7 .B3215 2016

Third Wave Capitalism: How Money, Power, and the Pursuit of Self-Interest Have Imperiled the American Dream (Aug 2016)

John Ehrenreich

In Third Wave Capitalism, John Ehrenreich documents the emergence of a new stage in the history of American capitalism. Just as the industrial capitalism of the nineteenth century gave way to corporate capitalism in the twentieth, recent decades have witnessed corporate capitalism evolving into a new phase, which Ehrenreich calls "Third Wave Capitalism."

Third Wave Capitalism is marked by apparent contradictions: Rapid growth in productivity and lagging wages; fabulous wealth for the 1 percent and the persistence of high levels of poverty; increases in the standard of living and increases in mental illness, personal misery, and political rage; the apotheosis of the individual and the deterioration of democracy; increases in life expectancy and out-of-control medical costs; an African American president and the incarceration of a large percentage of the black population.

Ehrenreich asserts that these phenomena are evidence that a virulent, individualist, winner-take-all ideology and a virtual fusion of government and business have subverted the American dream. Greed and economic inequality reinforce the sense that each of us is “on our own.” The result is widespread lack of faith in collective responses to our common problems. The collapse of any organized opposition to business demands makes political solutions ever more difficult to imagine. Ehrenreich traces the impact of these changes on American health care, school reform, income distribution, racial inequities, and personal emotional distress. Not simply a lament, Ehrenreich's book seeks clues for breaking out of our current stalemate and proposes a strategy to create a new narrative in which change becomes possible. [from publisher web site]


Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, an imprint of Cornell University Press. 244 pages
ISBN: 9781501702310
Call number: HC103 .E373 2016

See You in the Streets: Art, Action, and Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (Jul 2016)

Ruth Sergel, Teresa Mangum and Anne Valk (Eds.)

In 1911, a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City took the lives of 146 workers, most of them young immigrant women and girls. Their deaths galvanized a movement for social and economic justice then, but today’s laborers continue to battle dire working conditions. How can we bring the lessons of the Triangle fire back into practice today? For artist Ruth Sergel, the answer was to fuse art, activism, and collective memory to create a large-scale public commemoration that invites broad participation and incites civic engagement. See You in the Streets showcases her work.

It all began modestly in 2004 with Chalk, an invitation to all New Yorkers to remember the 146 victims of the fire by inscribing their names and ages in chalk in front of their former homes. This project inspired Sergel to found the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, a broad alliance of artists and activists, universities and unions—more than 250 partners nationwide—to mark the 2011 centennial of the infamous blaze. Putting the coalition together and figuring what to do and how to do it were not easy. This book provides a lively account of the unexpected partnerships, false steps, joyous collective actions, and sustainability of such large public works. Much more than an object lesson from the past, See You in the Streets offers an exuberant perspective on building a social art practice and doing public history through argument and agitation, creativity and celebration with an engaged public. 

Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press. 209 pages
ISBN: 9781609384173
Call number: F128.5 .S47 2016

Work and Sleep: Research Insights for the Workplace (Jun 2016)

Julian Barling, Christopher M. Barnes, Erica L. Carleton, and David T. Wagner (editors)

Sleep disorders and disruptions are commonly associated with negative mood, hostility, poor concentration, and ego depletion. And while researchers have long investigated the widespread negative effects of shift work on individuals, the knowledge derived from these studies is rather limited to those with non-linear work schedules. However, whether employees are clocking in a normal 9-5 or trudging through the graveyard shift, sleep is a crucial activity for us all. If the quantity and quality of our sleeping patterns are disrupted, the consequences affect not only the employee but for the organization they work for, as well.

Work and Sleep: Research Insights for the Workplace addresses the effects of sleep on employee and organizational functioning, and the impact of common work experiences on a night's rest. With a team of influential organizational psychologists at the helm, the editors lead a group of expert contributors as they each explore the issues that, regardless of industry, matter in work force well-being today.

New York, NY : Oxford University Press. 303 pages
ISBN: 9780190217662
Call number: HF5548.8 .W647 2016

China on Strike: Narratives of Worker's Resistance (May 2016)

Hao Ren, Zhongjin Li, and Eli Friedman (editors)

China has been the fastest growing major economy in the world for three decades. It is also home to some of the largest, most incendiary, and most underreported labor struggles of our time.

China on Strike, the first English-language book of its kind, provides an intimate and revealing window into the lives of workers organizing in some of China’s most profitable factories, which supply Apple, Nike, Hewlett Packard, and other multinational companies. Drawing on dozens of interviews with Chinese workers, this book documents the processes of migration, changing employment relations, worker culture, and other issues related to China’s explosive growth. [from publisher’s web site]

Chicago, Illinois : Haymarket Books. 224 pages
ISBN: 9781608465224
Call number: HD5430.A6 C36 2016