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In 2014, I completed two books. Out of Sight is coming out in June and Empire of Timber is probably being published in March 2016 if not a touch earlier.

So what to do in 2015? I suppose I should just watch baseball for the next 8 months or find a way to relax. But I don’t really do that. The only answer at this point in my life is to write another book.

This week I signed a contract with The New Press for a book currently titled No Surrender, No Retreat: A History of America in Ten Strikes. This will be my synthesis of American labor history using ten labor actions as a entry point into the larger stories of working people that define a given era. I’m still working out precisely which ten to choose, but they will probably include the Lowell Mill Girls strike of 1845, slaves walking away from the plantations at the end of the Civil War, a couple of the classic Gilded Age strikes, the Flint sit-down strike, the Oakland General Strike of 1946, Lordstown, and the Air Traffic Controllers or Phelps-Dodge union busting of the 80s. The book will end with the Justice for Janitors campaign, which I think is the logical way to sum up where we are at now–SEIU, Latinos and organized labor becoming a movement of immigrants, service workers. The book will not be in depth discussions of the details of these actions, but rather a way to retell American history for a popular audience that centers the focus on working people.

No publication date yet obviously and it won’t be for awhile since I haven’t written it yet.

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  • Hogan

    If you’re not careful you’re going to have one of those George R. R. Martin fanbases that keeps pestering you for the next book. Write faster, damnit!

    So let me be the first to say: People, Erik Loomis is not your bitch.

    • wjts

      I just wish he’d stop wasting time on those stupid Wild Cards labor and logging books and get back to A Song of Ice and Fire his books about a sexy werewolf who solves mysteries.

      • rea

        Shhhhhh . . . you’re not supposed to tell anyone that “Erik Loomis” is a pseudonym used by Patricia Briggs

  • Lee Rudolph

    Not the Kohler strike? (I see from Wikipedia that I should specify “of 1954”.)

    • The Wikipedia entry for that event is really right-wing.

      • Vance Maverick

        Good lord.

        Walter was a benevolent employer.

        [citation needed, or rather, the absence of a citation, with the intimate first-person reference to the boss, is all that’s needed]


        • I liked how the violence is directly funded by the UAW.

      • Romanes Eunt Domus

        Someone should write an essay on the brigades of right wing trolls that spin labor and environmental events all over Wikipedia.

    • howard

      a good 25 years ago, i was involved in a little work for koehler, and at the time i didn’t know anything about the strike, and my (quite liberal) parents, who did remember, were in shock that i would touch them.

      • Lee Rudolph

        Long ago I knew a woman whose father had been an industrial chemist for Kohler. She was the eldest sibling, and other than being (maybe) a little crazy (but so were we all…), she was (as she told it) the only one of her parents’ four children who didn’t have something odd about their bodies (oddnesses which she attributed to her father’s job, of course): I can no longer remember just what was wrong with her brother (polydactyly, maybe); the older of her sisters had breasts that kept growing well past what she considered was reasonable; and the youngest sister had two (fully functional) vaginas (one for each Fallopian tube). That sister was straight. After college, she had a roommate who had been born with no vagina, whose parents had—on their own initiative—foisted a vaginoplasty on her (back when, I think, it was still a rather experimental operation), only to learn from her (eventually) that she was gay. The roommate’s father, enraged, shouted (according to my friend’s account via her sister) “We paid $10,000 for that and you aren’t even using it!” My friend’s sister told her roommate (presumably outside the presence of the father) that if she’d known, she would have been happy to donate one.

        And that’s the news from Lake Woebegon.

        • Vance Maverick

          The bold look of Kohler, indeed. (“Good lord,” to repeat myself.)

        • Aimai

          Whut? Whut? Whut?

          • busker type

            I got nothing

      • howard

        i met ruth kohler as part of the work, and i’m pleased to say, in this context, that she was a total jerk.

  • Anna in PDX

    That’s great news, Erik. I am awaiting the timber book anxiously, both for myself and for my dad who was a timber surveyor back in the day (“cruised timber” as they used to say it).

  • tinycatpaws

    The Southern textile strike of 1934?

    • There’s only room for one strike in the 1930s.

  • howard

    you have to do the air traffic controllers: after all, it was the most important foreign policy triumph of the last 35 years!

    • howard

      dredging around more seriously in memory, wasn’t there a pretty important coal miners’ strike in the later ’70s? and aren’t there lots of interesting intersections in the mineworkers’ union?

      • busker type

        pittston coal?

      • From what I recall of Thomas Geoghegan’s Which Side Are You On?, there was the murder of reformist candidate for the UMWA presidency Jock Yablonski by supporters of Tommy Doyle, followed by rather contentious election where the reformist slate won (and, I think, Richard Trumka’s first national union position), followed by years of wildcat strikes. I think Geoghagan’s way of describing it was that for a period of several years, as much as a fourth of the UMWA was on strike protesting the federal courts.

      • Joe B.

        The national coal strike in 1978 was the big one. That’s a really good choice because it was kind of a bridge between the strong rank and file activism that you get at places like Lordstown in the early-mid 1970s and the all-out union-busting of the 1980s. I think it was actually more significant than the PATCO strike because it was really the moment where the industry devised strategies to avoid having to deal with rank and file miners (shifting production to the western states, dismantling the national bargaining system set up in the John L. Lewis years, and the AT Massey company-led aggressive union-busting). The ’78 strike was a good indicator of the pre-Reagan shift in national politics too. Like the miners’ signs said when the President unsuccessfully tried to force the miners back to work, “Taft can mine it, Hartley can haul it, and Carter can shove it!”

    • BlueLoom

      At the time of the PATCO strike, I worked in the building where the union had its headquarters. Strikers, TV cameras, etc. And much distress when Reagan broke the union.

      AIPAC was also in the building at that time, and several times per year we had to evacuate b/c of bomb threats. (See? there’s nothing new under the sun.)

      Another tenant of the building was CSPAN–handy for them to have been right where all the action was.

      • Quite the building.

        Also, CSPAN existed in 1981?

        • skate

          1979.. A young congressman from Tennessee named Gore is supposed to have given the first speech that it televised.

          • The guy with the big house?

            • skate

              That one.

  • Congrats!

    Maybe the success of this book will make the This Day in Labor History 16-Month Wall Calendar one step closer to reality!

    • hylen

      Has this been brought up before? I think it’s a great idea.

      • This sort of thing is the eventual goal.

        • Are you accepting applications for calendar models?

      • There has been nagging.

        • Jackov

          In regards to nags, I hope you set aside late 2016 for the dead horses children’s book. The dead gray mare, she ain’t what she use to be.

          Congratulations on the deal.

          • Ronan

            I was thinking the exact same thing, except named ‘all the pretty dead horses.’

  • Congratulations!

  • nasser

    If you have room in the 1950’s, the 52 steel strike would be perfect.

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    looking to take over james brown’s ‘hardest working man in show business’ gig, eh? way to go

  • Jed

    Congratulations! The check is … somewhere .. not in the mail yet …

  • Warren Terra


    It is fitting that a historian of logging is so committed to killing trees.

  • Thom

    Jesus, Erik, when are you going to publish something? Also, what have you done for us lately?

    • I have a couple of articles coming out this fall as well, although they are just drawn from the logging book. I wouldn’t want to get bored.

      • Lee Rudolph

        It starts with logging, but eventually you get board.

        • jetsam

          I laughed.

  • libjpn

    Are you going to have any of the strikes or labor actions in Hawai’i? It might be outside the wheelhouse, but with Obama being president and the touting of Hawai’i as a post-racial society, including a strike or labor action from there might be interesting, though I’m not sure how it would fit on your time line. The earlier strikes (1909, 1920) and the relationship to immigration or the post war strikes and the question of statehood would raise points about globalization.

    • I will eventually get to that stuff in the labor history series, but none of those strikes really explain a whole time period.

  • Bruce Vail

    Not big enough for a whole chapter but perfect for the introduction is some discussion of the Philadelphia Journeyman Printers Strike of 1786, credibly described as American Labor’s First Strike. That segues nicely into the 1806 Commonwealth v Pullis court case, in which members of a Philadlephia shoemakers union were convicted of criminal conspiracy for going on strike.

    • Yeah, the plan is to include events like this as part of the broader discussion. So the Lowell chapter is really a chapter on early American industrial work.

  • nmo

    I’d suggest the Caterpilar or the Detroit Newspaper strikes from the 1990’s.

    • Warren Terra

      I don’t know if it has the drama or the impact of some other examples, but as a young-ish person in the 90s the Caterpillar striker seemed to be the only sustained labor action getting national attention and getting some respect (as opposed to sneering stories about teachers striking, etcetera).

      • Joe B.

        Stephen Franklin wrote a good book on the Caterpillar strike, alongside the Bridgestone and Staley strikes going on at the same time.

  • The book will not be in depth discussions of the details of these actions, but rather a way to retell American history for a popular audience that centers the focus on working people.

    Just so you know, this is not actually a good strategy if your goal is to have Hollywood beating down your door with offers of a movie option.

  • Joe B.

    Congratulations on all the books, Erik. This one sounds great. Labor history needs to be a bit more accessible and placed in historical context than it is now.

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