In 1995, in the first contested election in the history ofthe AFL-CIO, John Sweeney won the presidency of the nation’s largest laborfederation, promising renewal and resurgence. Today, less than 7 percent ofAmerican private-sector workers belong to a union, the lowest percentage sincethe beginning of the twentieth century, and public employee collectivebargaining has been dealt devastating blows in Wisconsin and elsewhere. Whathappened?
Jane McAlevey is famous—and notorious—in the American labormovement as the hard-charging organizer who racked up a string of victories ata time when union leaders said winning wasn’t possible. Then she was bouncedfrom the movement, a victim of the high-level internecine warfare that has tornapart organized labor. In this engrossing and funny narrative—that reflects thepersonality of its charismatic, wisecracking author—McAlevey tells the story ofa number of dramatic organizing and contract victories, and the unconventionalstrategies that helped achieve them. Raising Expectations (And Raising Hell)argues that labor can be revived, but only if the movement acknowledges itsmistakes and fully commits to deep organizing, participatory education, militancy,and an approach to workers and their communities that more resembles the campaignsof the 1930s—in short, social movement unionism that involves raising workers’expectations (while raising hell).