Lefty novelist Ron Jacobs has published a glowing review of Gregg Shotwell’s new book Autoworkers Under the Gun, a title I thoroughly enjoyed proofreading. Autoworkers, new this spring from Haymarket Books, traces Shotwell’s career as a rabble-rousing rank-and-filer in the Detroit UAW. It’s a curated collection of his shop-floor rag Live Bait & Ammo, in which Shotwell takes on greedy Big Three auto-industry CEOs and collaborationist “business unionists” in the UAW with equal gusto, firing off wisecracks mixed with genuine anger, a veteran’s knowledge of the industry, and key insights into union politics.
Though I have yet to meet him in person, I’m proud to count Gregg Shotwell as my union brother; I joined the National Writers’ Union (UAW local 1981) last summer. The week after I joined, this assignment landed on my desk. I laughed, I fumed, I shouted choice quotes to my husband. It was quite the introduction to my new union. (I hope to learn more about the NWU soon– Philadelphia union meetings are starting next month. If you’re a Philly-area writer, come and check it out at Campbell’s Pub in Chestnut Hill this May 19 at 6 pm.)
Jacobs sums the book up well:
Autoworkers Under the Gun makes it very clear how the auto industry’s exorbitant payments to its executives and management combined with a penchant for bankruptcy destroyed it. Calling globalization a “four bit word for sweatshop,” Shotwell points out how CEOs and their co-conspirators control the discussion about the economy by blaming the workers for wanting to earn a living and pension. As most readers know, the other part of this scenario involves those executives purposely downsizing the corporation by moving jobs offshore. His biting commentary reminds the reader how intentional this entire process is.
If you’re in a union– or if you think unions are useless and corrupt– this book is for you. With plenty of laughs and a personality that leaps off the page, Shotwell will school you in just how frustrating the US labor movement is, how we got there, and where we go from here.