The Hammer

Power, Inequality, and the Struggle for the Soul of Labor

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By Hamilton Nolan

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A timely, in-depth, and vital exploration of the American labor movement and its critical place in our society and politics, from acclaimed labor reporter Hamilton Nolan.
 
Inequality is America’s biggest problem. Unions are the single strongest tool that working people have to fix it. Organized labor has been in decline for decades. Yet it sits today at a moment of enormous opportunity. In the wake of the pandemic, a highly visible wave of strikes and new organizing campaigns have driven the popularity of unions to historic highs. The simmering battle inside of the labor movement over how to tap into its revolutionary potential—or allow it to be squandered—will determine the economic and social course of American life for years to come.

In chapters that span the country, Nolan shows readers the actual places where labor and politics meld. He highlights how organized labor can and does wield power effectively: a union that dominates Las Vegas and is trying to scale nationally; a successful decades-long campaign to organize California's child care workers; the human face of a surprising strike of factory workers trying to preserve their pathway to the middle class. Throughout, Nolan follows Sara Nelson, the fiery and charismatic head of the flight attendants’ union, as she struggles with how (and whether) to assert herself as a national leader, to try to fix what is broken. The Hammer draws the line from forgotten workplaces in rural West Virginia to Washington’s halls of power, and shows how labor solidarity can utterly transform American politics—if it can first transform itself.

A labor journalist for more than a decade, Nolan helped  unionize his own industry. The Hammer is a urgent on-the-ground excavation of the past, present, and future of the American labor movement.

Genre:

  • "Hamilton Nolan is one of the greatest living American labor journalists, and his debut book, The Hammer, shows exactly why. In this deeply reported work of journalism, Nolan shows both his endless compassion for the workers and organizers laboring to change this world for the better, and his willingness to turn an unsparingly critical eye on the movement's own blind spots and failings. It's that commitment to honesty, integrity, and empathy (as well as his willingness to call bullshit when needed) that has long made his work essential reading, and it shines especially bright in The Hammer. If you love something, you must be willing to criticize it and encourage it to do better, and with The Hammer, Nolan makes clear just how much he loves the labor movement."
    Kim Kelly, author of Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor
  • The Hammer is a smart, lively and trenchant look at the myriad problems that American workers face, from poverty-level wages to blatant union-busting to obscene levels of income inequality. It’s also a stirring call for stronger action to lift America’s workers as well as a stinging critique of the nation’s labor unions for failing to do more to organize and fight for workers. It's one of the best-written, most colorful books on labor that I’ve read in years.”
    Steven Greenhouse, author Beaten Down, Worked Up
  • “One of my favorite writers reports with passion and courage on one of the most pressing challenges America faces: saving our economy from plutocracy. We need more hammers like him.”
    Rick Perlstein, author of Reaganland and Nixonland
  • “Labor journalist Nolan makes his book debut with a rousing look at union activities across the country and an impassioned argument for the protection of workers’ rights….Spirited reporting on workers’ lives.”
    Kirkus Reviews

On Sale
Feb 13, 2024
Page Count
272 pages
Publisher
Hachette Books
ISBN-13
9780306830921

Hamilton Nolan

About the Author

Hamilton Nolan is a labor journalist who writes regularly for In These Times magazine and The Guardian. He has written about labor, politics, and class war for The New York Times, the Washington Post, Gawker, Splinter, and other publications. He was the longest-serving writer in Gawker’s history, and was a leader in unionizing Gawker Media in 2015. Hamilton is a proud member of the Writers Guild of America, East. He lives in Brooklyn.

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