The Hammer: Power, Inequality, and the Struggle for the Soul of Labor (Hardcover)

The Hammer: Power, Inequality, and the Struggle for the Soul of Labor By Hamilton Nolan Cover Image
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A timely, in-depth, and vital exploration of the American labor movement and its critical place in our society and politics today, from acclaimed labor reporter Hamilton Nolan.
Inequality is America’s biggest problem. Unions are the single strongest tool that working people have to fix it. Organized labor has been in decline for decades. Yet it sits today at a moment of enormous opportunity. In the wake of the pandemic, a highly visible wave of strikes and new organizing campaigns have driven the popularity of unions to historic highs. The simmering battle inside of the labor movement over how to tap into its revolutionary potential—or allow it to be squandered—will determine the economic and social course of American life for years to come.

In chapters that span the country, Nolan shows readers the actual places where labor and politics meld. He highlights how organized labor can and does wield power effectively: a union that dominates Las Vegas and is trying to scale nationally; a successful decades-long campaign to organize California's child care workers; the human face of a surprising strike of factory workers trying to preserve their pathway to the middle class. Throughout, Nolan follows Sara Nelson, the fiery and charismatic head of the flight attendants’ union, as she struggles with how (and whether) to assert herself as a national leader, to try to fix what is broken. The Hammer draws the line from forgotten workplaces in rural West Virginia to Washington’s halls of power, and shows how labor solidarity can utterly transform American politics—if it can first transform itself.

A labor journalist for more than a decade, Nolan helped  unionize his own industry. The Hammer is a urgent on-the-ground excavation of the past, present, and future of the American labor movement.

About the Author

Hamilton Nolan is a labor journalist who writes regularly for In These Times magazine and The Guardian. He has written about labor, politics, and class war for The New York Times, the Washington Post, Gawker, Splinter, and other publications. He was the longest-serving writer in Gawker’s history, and was a leader in unionizing Gawker Media in 2015. Hamilton is a proud member of the Writers Guild of America, East. He lives in Brooklyn.

Praise For…


"Hamilton Nolan is one of the greatest living American labor journalists, and his debut book, The Hammer, shows exactly why. In this deeply reported work of journalism, Nolan shows both his endless compassion for the workers and organizers laboring to change this world for the better, and his willingness to turn an unsparingly critical eye on the movement's own blind spots and failings. It's that commitment to honesty, integrity, and empathy (as well as his willingness to call bullshit when needed) that has long made his work essential reading, and it shines especially bright in The Hammer. If you love something, you must be willing to criticize it and encourage it to do better, and with The Hammer, Nolan makes clear just how much he loves the labor movement."—Kim Kelly, author of Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor

The Hammer is a smart, lively and trenchant look at the myriad problems that American workers face, from poverty-level wages to blatant union-busting to obscene levels of income inequality. It’s also a stirring call for stronger action to lift America’s workers as well as a stinging critique of the nation’s labor unions for failing to do more to organize and fight for workers. It's one of the best-written, most colorful books on labor that I’ve read in years.”—Steven Greenhouse, author Beaten Down, Worked Up

“One of my favorite writers reports with passion and courage on one of the most pressing challenges America faces: saving our economy from plutocracy. We need more hammers like him.”—Rick Perlstein, author of Reaganland and Nixonland

“[The Hammer] is both a love letter to the power of workplace organizing and a lacerating critique of the shortcomings of mainstream labor organizations, which Nolan argues have failed to meet the moment.”—Vanity Fair

“A lively account of the current landscape of American labor organizing….The Hammer offers an impressive array of scenes from the front lines of the 21st-century economy…. passionate, muckraking spirit.”—The New York Times

“A new and fresh perspective on the recent evolution of labor movements in the United States…. This important book shows how unions in a wide range of industries can utilize their inherent power and explores the complicated and necessary relationship between labor and politics, encouraging readers to examine how one affects the other. Well researched and reported, with a propulsive storytelling style. Nolan’s outstanding book will interest readers who follow news about equality efforts but might not be familiar with the complex world of labor organizing.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“Labor journalist Nolan makes his book debut with a rousing look at union activities across the country and an impassioned argument for the protection of workers’ rights….Spirited reporting on workers’ lives.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Hamilton Nolan presents a compelling argument that a re-energized labor movement could present the best vehicle for saving American democracy…. Nolan offers a vivid snapshot of the current union movement.”—Matter Magazine

“Really impressed…[the book] brought back a lot of memories…love [the] writing, sense of humor, candor.”—“The Construction Leadership” podcast

“A progressive call for the weakening American labor movement to transform itself, so it can acquire more power, revamp U.S. politics itself, and reduce economic inequality…. There is also refreshing encouragement in the anti-elitism of much of Nolan’s consonant critique of top-down ‘bigness.’”—The Giving Review

“[Nolan’s] recent book, The Hammer, laments years of bad decisions by union management, before issuing a call to action, concerning how the movement could grow. It’s the argument of a pessimist’s intellect and an optimist’s soul. Which is pretty much the only combination that makes sense if you are, like Nolan and myself, a supporter of America’s unions…. Nolan offers no easy answers. Indeed, his book catalogues mistake after mistake made by the labor movement. This willingness to engage directly and unapologetically with a seemingly endless stream of self-inflicted wounds is one of the book’s central strengths — a sign that labor is more than a symbol for Nolan and instead a living, breathing engine of potential progress.”—UnHerd

Product Details
ISBN: 9780306830921
ISBN-10: 0306830922
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication Date: February 13th, 2024
Pages: 272
Language: English