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Publisher's Summary

“Kelly unearths the stories of the people—farm laborers, domestic workers, factory employees—behind some of labor movement’s biggest successes.”—The New York Times 

A revelatory and inclusive history of the American labor movement, from independent journalist and Teen Vogue labor columnist Kim Kelly.

Freed Black women organizing for protection in the Reconstruction-era South. Jewish immigrant garment workers braving deadly conditions for a sliver of independence. Asian American fieldworkers rejecting government-sanctioned indentured servitude across the Pacific. Incarcerated workers advocating for basic human rights and fair wages. The queer Black labor leader who helped orchestrate America’s civil rights movement. These are only some of the working-class heroes who propelled American labor’s relentless push for fairness and equal protection under the law.

The names and faces of countless silenced, misrepresented, or forgotten leaders have been erased by time as a privileged few decide which stories get cut from the final copy: those of women, people of color, LGBTQIA people, disabled people, sex workers, prisoners, and the poor. In this definitive and assiduously researched work of journalism, Teen Vogue columnists and independent labor reporter Kim Kelly excavates that untold history and shows how the rights the American worker has today—the 40-hour workweek, workplace-safety standards, restrictions on child labor, protection from harassment and discrimination on the job—were earned with literal blood, sweat, and tears.

Fight Like Hell comes at a time of economic reckoning in America. From Amazon’s warehouses to Starbucks cafes, Appalachian coal mines to the sex workers of Portland’s Stripper Strike, interest in organized labor is at a fever pitch not seen since the early 1960s. Inspirational, intersectional, and full of crucial lessons from the past, Fight Like Hell shows what is possible when the working class demands the dignity it has always deserved.

©2022 Kim Kelly. All rights reserved. (P)2022 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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A People’s American Labor History

“We stand on the shoulders of giants”. Anyone involved in labor organizing recognizes the importance of all previous fights for labor rights. While the bosses never stop trying to reduce or eliminate workers' power, and while the fight never ends, even a labor action that ends in defeat advances the cause. This is a story of 200 years of American labor action and the men and women who fought in those conflicts. A few names are well known. Most names are unknown to the general public. A few names would be lost to history without this book.
Kim Kelly tells the inspiring tale of the fight for workers’ rights and their leaders who often staked everything standing up to the rich and powerful.
The review is well-timed in this moment of labor unrest. With the “Great Resignation” and “Striketober” of 2021 in the recent past and organizing now where it has never gone before, the story of past fights should be illuminating to organizing workers, as well as, to those wondering what is going on.
Kudos to Kelly for a needed, well-written book.

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Great stories of lesser known labor activists

Great stories of the Labor movement brought together by Kelly. Many of whom I'd never heard before.
some glaring mispronounciations by narrator