You can preorder it now, and you should.
My book, “The Hammer: Power, Inequality, and the Struggle for the Soul of Labor,” is now available for preorder. Let me tell you a little bit about it.
By the end of 2021, I had been a full time labor reporter at In These Times for two years, covering the intertwined crises and opportunities that faced workers in America in the wake of the pandemic. I’d spent the five years before that both reporting on labor and heavily involved in the movement to unionize the media industry. All of those years weighed on me. The labor movement was the most tantalizing, and the most frustrating, thing that I had ever been involved in. I could see, as clear as day, how unions could be the singular tool that could solve the inequality crisis gripping America—the big, deep problem that was eroding the foundations of our society, the underlying cause of a lot of other problems. At the same time, I couldn’t deny that the institutions of organized labor seemed consistently unable to rise to the task of saving the country. Organized labor was not that organized at all. It was a scattered, roiling mass of some of the most inspiring people and groups I had ever seen mixed in with some of the most disappointing ones. I wanted to capture all of this in a book: The incredible, world-altering potential of the labor movement, and its maddening, heartbreaking failure to harness that potential, along with the possibility, dancing just past our fingertips, that we could pull it all together.
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I spent all of 2022 reporting my book, all over the country. I reported in San Diego and Los Angeles and Portland and Las Vegas and New Orleans and Miami and Chicago and West Virginia and Philadelphia and Boston, speaking to many of the most amazing working people and union leaders I have ever encountered. Some chapters of the book profile the things that work—the unions and methods that could be scaled up for national change. Some chapters focus on individual stories that capture the essence of what it means to be in this fight. The book also follows Sara Nelson, the fiery head of the flight attendants union, as she wrestles with what it means to try to be a leader in the labor movement. I’ve tried, in this book, to both show and to tell how the path towards to new America can run through unions—and to be honest about why that path is so fucking hard.
This is my first book. When I set out to write it, I told myself: I’ll just write it, and whatever I do wrong, I can try to do better in the next book. After many years as a writer, I have a good sense of whether an essay or a magazine feature I write is any good. But in the case of this book, I can’t really tell. It’s the longest thing I’ve ever written. It is hard for me to wrap my mind around the entire work. I do, though, think that I did with this book what I set out to do. I told the story that I wanted to tell. The rest is really up to you, the readers. I imagine that people who are already involved in the labor movement will buy the book, but I wrote it with regular readers in mind. I’d like anyone to be able to read the book, enjoy it, not feel like it’s a damn job to read, and come out at the end with a new idea of how things work. And perhaps with a determination to get involved.
Anyhow: I would really appreciate it if you would preorder the book. This is, they tell me, very important for authors. Book stores and online booksellers need to see that people want to buy the book in order for them to give it decent placement when it comes out. Like many of you, I have bought books by friends and acquaintances just to be nice, and then come to find that they were not very good. As this is my first book I do not want to make any grand claims for it, but I will say that if you are reading this right now, there is a good chance that you will like the book as well. I don’t think it sucks.
It is scheduled to be published in February of 2024. (I have no idea why books take so long to be published.) I’ve long believed that American political discourse would be greatly improved if the general public better understood how political change can follow from the power of labor—how electoral politics can be the outcome of the class war, and not the main event. I hope that the book’s release during an election year can help to inject this idea, which I write about at length, into the public conversation. I also hope that the really, truly inspiring people that I wrote about will get a chance to have their stories read widely.
Any impact the book might have depends on people buying it. So if any of this sounds interesting to you, please do preorder it. Please share it with your friends, and have them preorder it. Please have your book clubs preorder it, and your unions, and your radical political groups, and buy it for your family members. I will certainly talk more about the book here and there in months to come, but right now I just want to humbly suggest that if you read How Things Work, I know a good book that you should preorder: “The Hammer,” by me. Here is its page on my publisher’s site, which includes a number of preorder options, and here are a few direct links:
Good ways to support the labor movement are to unionize your workplace, go join a picket line, and/ or preorder my book. Thanks!
The Teamsters reached a tentative contract agreement with UPS, meaning that—if members approve the contract—what would have been the biggest strike in decades won’t happen. I wrote a piece for MSNBC yesterday about this profound demonstration of labor peace through strength, and what it says about the balance of power in the class war.
Strikes are very exciting and, like wars, they thrill us, but they are also extremely hard and painful and if the Teamsters members approve this contract without having to strike, that is actually the best case scenario. Also, for me personally, I am a little bit glad because I am going to be spending most of August at a writers retreat thing called MacDowell where you go sit in a cabin in the woods and just, you know, write stuff. Had the UPS strike gone down on August 1, I would have missed it because I would have been out in the woods, and then I would have felt like a bad labor reporter. So perhaps this is a “win” for a particular labor journalist, as well. Will I be updating How Things Work from the woods? YES, although it is possible that I will not write as frequently for the next few weeks, due to staring up at trees in a contemplative way. Please respect the creative process and trust that it is only temporary.
It used to be that journalists had “jobs.” Now we write books and freelance and seek out grants and write incisive Substack publications. So, in addition to preordering my book, the best way that you can support independent journalism is to become a paid subscriber to How Things Work. I think of all of us here as a team—you, the treasured readers, pay a modest subscription fee, and I am able to buy food, and write things, and then together we team up and make the revolution at the end. It’s a system that works. Think about it.