Cover image for The unmaking of the American working class
The unmaking of the American working class
Theriault, Reg, 1924-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : New Press : Distributed by W.W. Norton, 2003.
Physical Description:
x, 211 pages ; 20 cm
Format :


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HD8072.5 .T48 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Portrays the American blue-collar culture as decreasing, citing administrations in the second half of the twentieth century that have eliminated large portions of the working class and how this has compromised the nation.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Theriault follows his well-received book about work (How to Tell When You're Tired) with a rumination on politics, economics and unions, specifically the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which was recently locked out of the West Coast ports until federal intervention. His major thesis is that American companies are exporting jobs at the expense of blue-collar workers. What is more, he argues, corporate America has been aided in this shortsighted commitment to unexamined growth by an equally misguided political establishment. The discussions of economic theory echo those of other antiglobalization advocates, many more trenchant than Theriault, and are less interesting than the descriptions of his own work history. Theriault is an evocative and tender eulogist for the vanished world of fruit-tramps, who packed cantaloupes, tomatoes and fruits from California to the Northwest until mechanization and Hispanic migrant workers made them obsolete, and for logging as it was practiced before helicopters and other new technologies revolutionized that industry. His fondness for these arduous lifestyles is refreshingly matter-of-fact and not overly nostalgic or romanticized. Theriault is best at discussing why and how the ILWU has prospered when other unions have not. He explains how the ILWU's willingness to accept new dockside technologies, even when they caused a reduction in jobs, resulted in higher pay and greater job security for union members, although job security in the face of more dockside automation is currently at issue. Theriault also offers a thought-provoking analysis of why an American labor party never materialized, a failure he views with regret. This warning to Americans to reexamine current economic and labor policies will resonate with the increasing number of people concerned with the negative effects of globalization. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Theriault was a West Coast longshoreman from 1959 until his retirement in 1993, when a job injury disabled him. Less a memoir than a discussion of changes he has witnessed, this book examines the nature of work, politics, trade unions, the loss of jobs resulting from new technology, automation, and manufacturing flight overseas while mourning the disappearance of the blue-collar life and its egalitarian ethic. Born into a family of itinerant farm workers and subsequently educated at Berkeley, Theriault brings both an authentic voice and penetrating insight into an important economic and social issue. The recent dispute between the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union and management at West Coast ports lends the book particular timeliness. Recommended for all public libraries.-Elaine Machleder, Bronx, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prologuep. vii
Forewordp. ix
1. On the Waterfrontp. 1
2. How to Steal Sheepp. 10
3. The Union Makes Us Strongp. 17
4. Cargop. 35
5. Timber!p. 45
6. Through the Looking Glassp. 53
7. Tip That Drum, Tote That Balep. 64
8. The Depressionp. 69
9. Working Womenp. 76
10. Race and Classp. 96
11. The Violent Menp. 114
12. Gabfestp. 121
13. The Making of a Rust Beltp. 126
14. Semiskilled Need Not Applyp. 133
15. Living Historyp. 141
16. The Roadp. 149
17. Have Hook, Will Travelp. 166
18. The White Male Worker's Dissentp. 175
19. Labor Law and the Workerp. 182
20. Blue in Americap. 188
21. Caught in the Bightp. 200
22. The Ghosts in the Factoryp. 205