Out of Sight: The Long and Disturbing Story of Corporations Outsourcing Catastrophe, published by The New Press, 2015. Buy it here.
When jobs can move anywhere in the world, bosses have no incentive to protect either their workers or the environment. Work moves seamlessly across national boundaries, yet the laws that protect us from rapacious behavior remain tied to national governments. This situation creates an all-too-familiar “race to the bottom,” where profit is generated on the backs of workers and at the cost of toxic pollution.
In Out of Sight, Erik Loomis—a historian of both the labor and environmental movements—follows the thread that runs from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York in 1911 to the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 2013. The truth is that our systems of industrial production today are just as dirty and abusive as they were during the depths of the industrial revolution and the Gilded Age, but the ugly side of manufacturing is now hidden in faraway places where workers are most vulnerable.
Today, American capitalists threaten that any environmental regulations will drive up the cost of production and force them to relocate our jobs to a country where they don’t face such laws and can re-create their toxic work conditions. It wasn’t always like this. In his insightful book, Loomis shows that the great environmental victories of twentieth-century America—the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the EPA—were actually union victories. This history is a call to action: when we fight for our planet, we fight for our own dignity as workers and citizens. Out of Sight calls upon us to fight for regulations that follow corporations wherever they do business and put the power back in workers’ hands.
Praise for Out of Sight:
“A detailed and devastating critique by a brilliant historian.”
—John Nichols, The Progressive
“The arrival of Out of Sight could not have been better timed. Erik Loomis prescribes how activists can take back our country—for workers and for those who care about the health of our planet.”
—Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
“The rise of unbridled corporate power has been a disaster in so many ways—including the ability of the 1 percent to intimidate the rest of us into remaining silent lest we displease our masters. The story told here is tragic and important.”
—Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy
“Erik Loomis has globalized [Upton Sinclair’s] The Jungle. He shows that the most important reason for U.S. corporations to produce abroad is to avoid the regulations that books like The Jungle produced. Perhaps Out of Sight can prompt a similar movement on behalf of workers around the world, our planetary environment, and, yes, we who wear the clothes and eat the sausage that ‘they’ produce.”
—James Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me
“In this dazzling overview of industrial history, Erik Loomis shows how we can—no, we must—fight for both decent jobs and a clean environment. We can do so by not letting the corporations escape ‘out of sight.’ We need to think and act as globally as corporations do, and force them to respect rights wherever they go. This book is a must-read for people who care about jobs and the environment.”
—Aviva Chomsky, professor of history at Salem State University and author of Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal
“Well-written and informative . . . shows the many strong connections between workplace catastrophes, poor working conditions, diseases, and environmental disasters. Highly recommended.”
—Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity, Dhaka
“A passionate condemnation of the power that corporations hold over our lives, Erik Loomis shows that capitalism’s geography is a central element in class conflicts.”
—Andrew Herod, Distinguished Professor of Geography at the University of Georgia
“Erik Loomis shows that our systems remain broken, and it is our planet and her people, particularly the most marginalized communities, who are paying the price. However, there is hope in collective action.”
—Jacqueline Patterson, director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program
“One of the top voices chronicling the struggles of the twenty-first-century labor movement. Loomis’s blunt, witty, take-no-prisoners style always promises an exciting read.”