Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-x

Abbreviations Used in the Text

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pp. xi-xiv

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Introduction

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pp. 1-12

One sweltering July morning in 1976, Jan Hooks, a thirty-one-year old Southern white woman trained as a secretary, crushed a hard hat over her head of unruly curls. The 1970s offered fresh promise for America’s working class, and Hooks wanted in. Growing up in the 1950s, she had watched her father leave each morning for his job at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Virginia. Yet she had never really considered that she might follow in his footsteps. By 1973, things had changed. That year the nation’s largest private shipbuilder for the navy started recruiting...

Part I

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pp. 13-14

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1. The Dilemma of the Narrow Door

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pp. 15-27

In 1979, Barbara Cash and her coworkers faced a predicament. Cash made her living unpacking boxes for the Woodward & Lothrop department store warehouse in Washington, D.C., expertly tagging clothes as she hung them on rack after rack. A small and powerfully built African American woman, she had followed her cousin into the job at age seventeen and began loading crates for the freight elevators. By 1979 she was a thirty-year-old mother of two. Though Cash had health insurance and a retirement plan through...

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2. Millions Go Knocking

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pp. 28-56

Henry Davison left his hometown of Monroe, Louisiana, in 1965 because, as a young black man, “I couldn’t find a job. . . . People in Monroe wanted to pay you two dollars an hour, but when you’d go out to buy a car it would cost the same as up North.” Davison found work in Chicago at a Ford assembly plant and only returned home to Monroe in the mid-1970s to raise his family. He landed a job at General Motors’ (GM) new Guide Lamp plant in 1976, at a wage that was still lower than that of workers up north: “It...

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3. Employers Close the Door

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pp. 57-82

Union busting was a hot controversy in the early 1980s, and Phil Donahue, king of the television talk show, featured a prominent antiunion consultant on his new late-night series. “No, Mr. Donahue, we don’t bust unions,” avowed Herbert G. Melnick of Modern Management Methods. “Our firm is a company that helps employers and employees understand one another.” Donahue turned his microphone to Patty Everett, a nurse’s aide at a Connecticut hospital where Melnick’s firm had recently orchestrated a union...

Part II

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pp. 83-84

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4. Signing Up in the Shipyard

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pp. 85-106

Edward Coppedge was admittedly a bit “naïve and reckless” when he left his family’s hard-scrabble tobacco and cotton farm in Castalia, North Carolina, in the late 1950s, but he also had a stubborn and persuasive style that would serve him well. He traveled 150 miles and a galaxy away to the Newport News, Virginia, shipyard because the only local options for young African American men like him were in dangerous sawmills and seasonal tobacco sheds. It took months to talk his way into the shipyard, and once...

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5. Out of the Southern Frying Pan, into the Global Fire

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pp. 107-127

No one was more surprised than the union when Cannon Mills textile workers very nearly voted for it in a 1974 NLRB election. Just one union organizer, Robert Freeman, had launched the campaign to organize the company’s sixteen thousand workers with the TWUA. It was the first such union election ever held at the antiunion behemoth in Kannapolis, North Carolina, and the largest election ever held in the U.S. textile industry. African American workers were at the forefront of this surprising labor...

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6. Resistance in Retail: Organizing Woodward & Lothrop

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pp. 128-151

Rosa Halsey helped build her union over lunch in the employee break room at Woodward & Lothrop’s downtown store, strategizing with a posse of coworkers who never before had been personal friends. “Other people I met had the same spirit,” she remembered. “We had a common goal.” Halsey moved to the Washington, D.C., area in 1977 from Norfolk, Virginia, a town adjacent to Newport News. A young, African American mother, she quickly found a job in the accounts department of the Washington area’s largest...

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7. 9to5: Framing a New Doorway

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pp. 152-177

Young and ambitious, Fran Cicchetti took a secretarial job at a Boston insurance company and soon pushed her boss to make good on his promise to train her as an underwriter. He instead groomed and promoted a male clerical worker for the coveted slot. Her dark, Italian eyes flashed with outrage beneath a sweep of thick bangs: “That was when I started thinking that, as a woman, I’d been lied to.” In April 1974, she joined hundreds of other Boston women in publicly calling on the city’s employers to honor a...

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Conclusion

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pp. 178-192

The 1970s union organizing push never reached its full promise. Nurses, clericals, shipwrights, textile workers, retail clerks, and other members of a newly diversified working class sought out unions for security in the face of enormous economic change throughout the decade. Yet too many of the workers’ organizing efforts collided with panicked employers’ reactions to the new globally and financially centered economy. Employers refused to tolerate unions any longer as profits grew scarce; they fought back and took...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 193-194

When I was a union organizer and labor communicator, every campaign was a collaborative effort. Even when I was the only organizer in a small Southern town, I knew that my work was part of a larger group’s effort. Writing a book may be more of a solo endeavor, but I could never have done it alone. Woven into these pages are the ideas, encouragement, and hard work of many individuals. I am delighted to be able to give them my thanks....

Appendix. NLRB Elections and Voters by Year

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pp. 195-198

Notes

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pp. 199-254

Bibliography

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pp. 255-282

Index

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pp. 283-296