Shift Happens: The History of Labor in the United States

HarperCollins. Jun. 2024. 416p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9780063273481.
Gr 9 Up–Contemporary, conversational, and sometimes profane, this work recounts a captivating exploration of the journey of American workers, seamlessly weaving together humor, historical anecdotes, and perceptive analysis. From Marco Polo to the recent pandemic’s impact on the workforce, it offers a comprehensive overview of labor struggles, triumphs, and the enduring fight for social justice. The author delves into the evolution of labor unions from ancient guilds, revealing the relentless efforts of the wealthy and privileged to exploit and suppress the working class. With vivid details and well-researched content, the narrative exposes the collusion between government and big business to undermine labor movements, perpetuate inequality, and endorse injustices against marginalized communities. Little-known labor leaders are recounted, and their hardships and tenacity are applauded. Throughout the book, capitalism, socialism, and communism are portrayed with nuance, highlighting their respective strengths and weaknesses in shaping the labor landscape. Students interested in history, economics, and social justice will find this a compelling read. Its engaging storytelling and thought-provoking insights make it accessible to a wide audience. While acknowledging the fluidity of the contemporary labor landscape, Mann offers timeless lessons and inspires readers to critically examine power dynamics in society. The inclusion of an index and extensive bibliography enhances the book’s value as a research tool.
VERDICT Its edgy title may attract attention, but it’s the compelling narrative and enlightening content that will keep readers engaged from cover to cover. A recommended read for high school students and educators alike.

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