Labor Day is coming up, and I can’t think of a better time to revisit the story of a giant of the Labor Movement, Tony Mazzocchi.
The folks at Talking Points Memo‘s TPMCafe recently put Les Leopold‘s The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor: The Life and Times of Tony Mazzocchi at the top of their list of books about the labor movement that non-labor folks can identify with.
From the Leftword blog:
It’s always hard to know what book to recommend to liberal friends looking to understand the labor movement, since you want a book that has frames of reference that non-labor folks can identify with, yet gets to the meat of what unions are about. So my new first choice may be The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor: The Life and Times of Tony Mazzocchi, a book that will introduce them to a labor leader they may not understand existed, one who fought for civil rights in the workplace before anyone had heard of Martin Luther King Jr., who as a leader of unions in defense industries actually led labor opposition to nuclear testing and the Vietnam War, who built a labor-environmental alliance with Ralph Nader and others around pollution in the workplace, and whose history within his union, the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW) can give a wonderful sense of the internal life of the best of labor institutions.
His story, from the 1940s when Mazzocchi left the army as a veteran and high-school drop-out to this decade when he finally passed on from terminal disease, still fighting on behalf of workers suffering from post-911 cleanup illnesses, is not necessarily typical, but he was hardly an aberration either, as evidenced by the broader labor and progressive coalitions he built in his lifetime. And what is true is that the history in which he was embedded is often forgotten by even most liberals, whose views of labor are constricted to myths and stereotypes rather than understanding the rich mosaic of union life that Mazzocchi was a vital part. Jump to below the fold for a selection of stories on Mazzocchi, but I urge you to read the book.