Reading List

May Day Reading 2022


After a long period of dormancy, the labor movement has seen a wave of dynamism in recent years. Amazon workers at a warehouse on Staten Island, NY voted to form the company's first union in the United States, one of the biggest worker victories in modern US labor history, and twenty Starbucks stores across the country have now unionized. The last few years have also seen a spike of newsrooms and media companies, and now publishers and booksellers, organizing unions.

Below are readings on the history of the labor movement, the changing dynamics of work, and theory to arm ourselves for the organizing struggles ahead. 

Happy International Workers' Day! To celebrate May Day, all books are 40% off until May 16 at 11:59PM EST.

A consensus-shattering account of automation technologies and their effect on workplaces and the labor market.

In this landmark study of American labour history, Meredith Tax charts the actions of women in working-class, feminist, and socialist movements between 1880 and 1917.

The brutal truth behind our automated futures and the new world of work.

An exhilarating challenge to the way we think about work, technology, progress, and what we want from the future.

A graphic biography of socialist labor legend Eugene V. Debs.

As precarity and low pay become further embedded in the job market, at a time when work-related stress and exhaustion are endemic, it is clear that a new, radical approach to employment is required.

A brilliant and comprehensive study of class struggle in the United States.

In Revolting Prostitutes, sex workers Juno Mac and Molly Smith bring a fresh perspective to questions that have long been contentious. Speaking from a growing global sex worker rights movement, and situating their argument firmly within wider questions of migration, work, feminism, and resistance to white supremacy, they make clear that anyone committed to working towards justice and freedom should be in support of the sex worker rights movement.

In this collection of essays, Steve Fraser, the preeminent historian of American capitalism, sets the record straight, rewriting the arc of the American saga with class conflict center stage and mounting a serious challenge to the consoling fantasy of American exceptionalism. 

A bracing riposte to the conventional wisdom concerning the irresistible power of globalization, Workers in a Lean World is a definitive account of contemporary labor relations on a global scale.

Looking to the future, Moody shows how the rise of immigrant labor and its efforts at self-organization can re-energize the unions from below. US Labor in Trouble and Transition is a major intervention in the ongoing debate within the US labor movement. 

Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell) argues that labor can be revived, but only if the movement acknowledges its mistakes and fully commits to deep organizing, participatory education, militancy, and an approach to workers and their communities that more resembles the campaigns of the 1930s—in short, social movement unionism that involves raising workers’ expectations (while raising hell).

Political theorist Joshua Clover theorizes the riot as the form of the coming insurrection.

A leading activist museum director explains why museums are at the center of a political storm and how they can be reimagined.

A longtime movement insider's powerful account of the origins of today's protest movements and what they can achieve now.

An indispensable window into the changing shape of the American working class and American politics.

A classic book on the legacy of Rosa Luxemburg’s work with essays of political analysis by leading scholars.

The classic text of Italian workerism finally available in English.

Why every worker should join a trade union.

Looking at labour history around the globe from the thirteenth to the twenty-first centuries, Komlosy sheds light on both discursive concepts as well as the concrete coexistence of multiple forms of labour—paid and unpaid, free and unfree. 

In this provocative essay, Frédéric Gros explores the roots of political obedience, social conformity, economic subjection, respect for authorities, constitutional consensus. Examining the various styles of obedience provides tools to study, invent and induce new forms of civic disobedience and lyrical protest. 

When cowboys were workers and battled their bosses.

Strike for America is the story of the Chicago Teacher's strike movement and how it triumphed in the defining struggle for workers today.

The hidden story of the 1970s insurgency from below, against employers and bureaucrats.

Our Own Time retells the story of American labor by focusing on the politics of time and the movements for a shorter working day. 

With extraordinary attention to the viewpoints of rank-and-file workers, Moody chronicles the major, but largely unreported, efforts of labor’s grassroots to find its way out of the crisis. In case studies of auto, steel, meatpacking and trucking, he traces the rise of “anti-concession” movements and in other case studies describes the formidable obstacles to the “organization of the unorganized” in the service sector. 

Trampling Out the Vintage is the authoritative and award-winning account of the rise and fall of the United Farm Workers and its most famous and controversial leader, Cesar Chavez.


Further resources / Verso reading lists:

Radical Futures: books to help us re-imagine new futures

Abolition is the only solution: a reading list for breaking police power

We all live in a country called Capitalism: books to deal with a very global problem

I Do Not Dream of Labour: Books that imagine a different working world

Histories of Global Underdevelopment: A reading list of history and theory that illuminates the effects of underdevelopment across the globe

Why does the left talk so much about work? Verso Student Reading on Labor and Marxism

Why the Left Studies History: Verso Student Reading on History