Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor (Hardcover)
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A 2022 New Yorker Best Book of the Year
A 2022 Esquire Best Nonfiction Book of the Year
A 2022 BuzzFeed Book You’ll Love
A 2022 LitHub Favorite Book of the Year
“Kelly unearths the stories of the people-farm laborers, domestic workers, factory employees—behind some of the labor movement’s biggest successes.” —The New York Times
A revelatory, inclusive history of the American labor movement, from independent journalist and Teen Vogue labor columnist Kim Kelly.
Freed Black women organizing for protection in the Reconstruction-era South. Jewish immigrant garment workers braving deadly conditions for a sliver of independence. Asian American fieldworkers rejecting government-sanctioned indentured servitude across the Pacific. Incarcerated workers advocating for basic human rights and fair wages. The queer Black labor leader who helped orchestrate America’s civil rights movement. These are only some of the working-class heroes who propelled American labor’s relentless push for fairness and equal protection under the law.
The names and faces of countless silenced, misrepresented, or forgotten leaders have been erased by time as a privileged few decide which stories get cut from the final copy: those of women, people of color, LGBTQIA people, disabled people, sex workers, prisoners, and the poor. In this assiduously researched work of journalism, Teen Vogue columnist and independent labor reporter Kim Kelly excavates that history and shows how the rights the American worker has today—the forty-hour workweek, workplace-safety standards, restrictions on child labor, protection from harassment and discrimination on the job—were earned with literal blood, sweat, and tears.
Fight Like Hell comes at a time of economic reckoning in America. From Amazon’s warehouses to Starbucks cafes, Appalachian coal mines to the sex workers of Portland’s Stripper Strike, interest in organized labor is at a fever pitch not seen since the early 1960s.
Inspirational, intersectional, and full of crucial lessons from the past, Fight Like Hell shows what is possible when the working class demands the dignity it has always deserved.
About the Author
Kim Kelly is an independent journalist, author, and organizer. She has been a regular labor columnist for Teen Vogue since 2018, and her writing on labor, class, politics, and culture has appeared in The New Republic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Baffler, The Nation, the Columbia Journalism Review, and Esquire, among many others. Kelly has also worked as a video correspondent for More Perfect Union, The Real News Network, and Means TV. Previously, she was the heavy metal editor at “Noisey,” VICE’s music vertical, and was an original member of the VICE Union. A third-generation union member, she is a member of the Industrial Workers of the World’s Freelance Journalists Union as well as a member and elected councilperson for the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE). She was born in the heart of the South Jersey Pine Barrens, and currently lives in Philadelphia with a hard-workin’ man, a couple of taxidermied bears, and way too many books.
“This history of American labor places today's resurgence of union activity in the context of past struggles... [Kelly] makes it possible to see resonances across history and locale.”
—The New Yorker
“Kelly unearths the stories of the people—farm laborers, domestic workers, factory employees—behind some of the labor movement’s biggest successes.”
—The New York Times
Fight Like Hell is an electrifying, inspiring history of how countless American industries have exploited employees of marginalized backgrounds, and how these workers protected one another and fought back."
“You’ll never look at American history the same way again.”
"The stories in Fight Like Hell remind us again and again that change is possible… if only we stick together."
“Kim Kelly's debut is a knockout... Catalyzed by a passionate voice and brisk pacing, Fight Like Hell will leave you with a renewed sense of readiness in your bones.”
—Morgan Jerkins, New York Times Bestselling author of This Will Be My Undoing, Wandering in Strange Lands, and Caul Baby
“As Kim Kelly writes in her book, every story is a labor story. [Fight Like Hell] offers a fuller picture of the history of labor in America and shows how fights previously not considered labor fights were in fact battles for workers' rights, whether it was abolishing slavery, liberating women, ensuring those disabled by work got fair treatment and those born with disabilities had a chance at a fair wage.”
—Eric Garcia, author of We're Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation
“In FIGHT LIKE HELL you'll find the true stories of people who have fought to win a better world for themselves and everyone else who has to work for a living.”
—Jeremy Brecher, author of National Bestseller Strike!
“Meticulously researched and beautifully told, [in FIGHT LIKE HELL] Kim Kelly has established herself as a true champion for the working class.”
—Liz Shuler, AFL-CIO President