Celebrating Our Cornell University Authors

As Commencement Weekend (May 22–24) fast approaches, it seems an opportune time to highlight some recent books whose authors and editors teach at Cornell University. The range of topics represented in this selection of books by Cornell professors published by the Press since 2013 (and forthcoming in Fall 2015) provides a glimpse of the broad scope of both our list and the university’s curriculum:

Mobilizing against Inequality: Unions, Immigrant Workers, and the Crisis of Capitalism, edited by Lee H. Adler (ILR School), Maite Tapia, and Lowell Turner (ILR School)

Cornell: A History, 1940–2015 by Glenn C. Altschuler (American Studies) and Isaac Kramnick (Government)

Introductory Food Chemistry by John W. Brady (Food Science)

Empire of Language: Toward a Critique of (Post)colonial Expression by Laurent Dubreuil (Romance Studies)  Continue reading “Celebrating Our Cornell University Authors”

Celebrating Our Cornell University Authors

The Thirtieth Anniversary of the Phelps Dodge Strike

This summer marks the thirtieth anniversary of the long, often violent, community-rending—but for women, in particular, sometimes empowering—Phelps Dodge Strike in the copper towns of Arizona. Cornell University/ILR Press authors Barbara Kingsolver (Holding the Line) and Jonathan Rosenblum (Copper Crucible) both wrote books about the Phelps Dodge strike that continue to be taught today at universities like Gonzaga, University of Minnesota, George Mason, and elsewhere. Professor Anna O’Leary, a leader of the women’s auxiliary of Morenci Local 616 who teaches at University of Arizona in Tucson, writes in a letter to the Latinopia blog that “…[M]any striker families moved on to other places in search of work and a new life. For many, it was a period of uncertainty and struggle and adaptation. However, being able to keep our heads held high in knowing that we were on the right side of history, helped in this period of adjustment as they brought other rewards to our children and a different future that had been difficult to envision at the time.

Rosenblum asked Morenci Miners Local 616 former president Angel Rodriguez to write a few words about why, alongside economic matters, his members belonged to the union:

“30 years ago on June 30, 1983, over 2,000 miners went on strike against the copper giant, Phelps Dodge (PD) Corporation at its Morenci, Ajo, Douglas and Bisbee operations and its refinery in El Paso, Texas. Copper miners at PD had gone on strike every three years. The general feeling among union leaders was optimism that in this round of negotiations we could avert a strike. The copper industry was feeling the effects of a slow economy and a market glut of copper worsened by foreign copper imports. According to the industry, the price of copper was not enough to cover the costs of producing the red metal and still make a profit. At the time, I had been President of Local Union 616 since 1977.

The company was proposing to terminate the 1980-83 contract and all other agreements, settlements, letters of understanding, dating back to the 1950’s…The company’s proposals were an obstacle to any meaningful negotiations on any level as they were steadfast and unbending. They weren’t looking for concessions, they wanted total capitulation. Thinking back, this was one time where our unity worked against us. At the time, we were firm in our position that whatever pattern was set by one of the other copper companies, that would be the basis for a settlement not only for us, but all the other copper industry negotiations. . . . The company had hired scabs to replace us and eventually led them to petition for a decertification vote. Needless to say, all the unions overwhelmingly lost the election, After 32 months, strikers were placed on the preferential hiring list and eventually many were recalled and resumed working for the company without union representation. The strike was a bitter strike with striker on scab and scab on striker violence and police brutality. In short, the aftermath was a divided community where families and long-time childhood friends remained bitterly divided. A way of life was destroyed.”

Rodriguez underlined what that way of life had meant to the mining community, especially the political participation of Mexican Americans:

“The union became the vehicle for Mexican Americans to run for political office and win elections to city, county and school boards and in some cases, state offices. It instilled the value and importance of being registered and voting in elections to elect their supporters to public office. Membership in the union was an empowering experience that gave the miners and their families the ability to standup and fight for the right for their children to speak Spanish when not in class at school without being punished. They fought for the right to walk into the movie theater and sit in any area other than designated/segregated area. They fought for the right for their children to go to the swimming pool on any day of the week, not only on the day before the pool was to be drained, so the Anglo kids could go swimming in ‘clean’ water the following week. They were able to go bowling where previously that had been denied service at the bowling alley, unless they were working there. The union empowered the miners to desegregate the restaurants that didn’t serve ‘Mexicans’ and be served. The miners’ families fought for the right to use the public library in Morenci.
In the midst of the hardships on the miners and their families, they always found a way to alleviate their hardships by engaging in community events that entertained them and helped them mix the good with the bad. It strengthened their bond.
What workers could accomplish once they felt the power a union could bring them!”

The Thirtieth Anniversary of the Phelps Dodge Strike

Recommended Reading List for the New SEIU President

As Mary Kay Henry begins her tenure as the President of the Service Employees International Union, we’d like to suggest the following ILR Press titles for information, guidance, and inspiration—

A New New Deal: How Regional Activism Will Reshape the American Labor Movement by Amy B. Dean and David B. Reynolds

Power in Coalition: Strategies for Strong Unions and Social Change by Amanda Tattersall

Working for Justice: The L.A. Model of Organizing and Advocacy by Ruth Milkman, Joshua Bloom, and Victor Narro (editors)

A Shameful Business: The Case for Human Rights in the American Workplace by James A. Gross

Building More Effective Unions, Second Edition by Paul F. Clark

Safety in Numbers: Nurse-to-Patient Ratios and the Future of Health Care by Suzanne Gordon, John Buchanan, and Tanya Bretherton

Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress by Candacy A. Taylor

Global Unions: Challenging Transnational Capital through Cross-Border Campaigns by Kate Bronfenbrenner (editor)

The Sex of Class: Women Transforming American Labor by Dorothy Sue Cobble (editor)

Recommended Reading List for the New SEIU President

From Predators to Icons in the New Yorker

From Predators to Icons: Exposing the Myth of the Business Hero by Michel Villette and Catherine Vuillermot is prominently featured in Malcolm Gladwell’s article “The Sure Thing” in the January 18, 2010 issue of the New Yorker. An abstract is available here: The Sure Thing

Here’s an excerpt:
“Michel Villette and Catherine Vuillermot set out to discover what successful entrepreneurs have in common. They present case histories of businessmen who built their own empires . . . and chart what they consider the typical course of a successful entrepreneur’s career. . . . The truly successful businessman, in Villette and Vuillermot’s telling, is anything but a risk-taker. He is a predator, and predators seek to incur the least risk possible while hunting.”

From Predators to Icons in the New Yorker

On the Irish Waterfront featured in the Wall Street Journal

Edward T. O’Donnell reviewed On the Irish Waterfront: The Crusader, the Movie, and the Soul of the Port of New York by James T. Fisher in the September 9, 2009 Wall Street Journal. Here’s an excerpt:

“It may be hard for some to imagine an era when the waterfronts clustered around New York City constituted America’s dominant commercial port. Yet as late as the 1950s the region’s 900 piers—spread over Manhattan’s West Side, South Brooklyn, and Hoboken and Jersey City, N.J.—handled more cargo than any port in the world. This is the setting for James T. Fisher’s On the Irish Waterfront, a fascinating work of history that explores the rise of New York’s commercial port from the early 1900s to the 1950s and the corruption that eventually infiltrated all levels of the cargo business, until a crusading priest helped to put a stop to it—and inspired a classic film along the way.”

Read the whole review here.

On the Irish Waterfront featured in the Wall Street Journal

Counter Culture in Publishers Weekly

Great review of Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress by Candacy A. Taylor in September 7, 2009 online edition of Publishers Weekly:

“Oral historian, photographer and former waitress Taylor turned her aching joints into the springboard for a mission: uncovering the experiences of diner waitresses in this sociological overview. Most are “lifers,” now senior citizens who abhor the idea of retirement. Others may see these women as uneducated service workers, but waitresses see themselves as psychologists, nurses, and family to their beloved regulars, who expect a little sass with their ham and eggs. Along with their extraordinary work ethic and oversized personalities, there are reminders of the occupational reality of below-minimum wages (which must be supplemented by substantial tips) and lack of medical and retirement benefits (which might be one reason these lifers just can’t stay away from their greasy spoons). With color photographs (mostly by Taylor) of waitresses in their diners on almost every page plus feisty first-person anecdotes about how the women handle nasty customers and customers who sneak out without paying the bill (one waitress threw a ketchup bottle at them), this unique perspective is much like the professional diner waitress–difficult to pigeonhole, impossible to ignore.”

Counter Culture was also featured as one of the “Indie Top 20” books in Publishers Weekly on August 31:
“This book has been eight years and 26,000 miles in the making, and we are very proud to be publishing it,” says publicist Jonathan Hall. What appeals to Ron Watson, lead buyer of the university press group at Ingram, about Taylor’s photographic homage to career waitresses is that it offers “great social history in a very commercial package at a bargain trade paperback price.”

Counter Culture in Publishers Weekly

Condensed Capitalism on Truthout

On the Truthout blog, Condensed Capitalism: Campbell Soup and the Pursuit of Cheap Production in the Twentieth Century by Daniel Sidorick is reviewed by Seth Sandronsky, who points out the timeliness of this particular example of well-done labor history:

“This book is useful to the Facebook generation. It is entering a labor market where owners use automation and the speed-up to intensify the working day and wring more profits from the increased productivity. It almost sounds like the 1930’s, when workers at Campbell and at firms across the US rose up to form labor unions where none existed. Almost.”

Read the whole review here.

Condensed Capitalism on Truthout

James T. Fisher speaks about Karl Malden in the Irish Echo

In an article published before the news of Karl Malden’s death was known, Peter McDermott of the Irish Echo interviews James T. Fisher, author of On the Irish Waterfront: The Crusader, the Movie, and the Soul of the Port of New York, about the Rev. John M. “Pete” Corridan. Corridan, the priest upon whom Malden’s character in On the Waterfront was modeled, died 25 years ago, on July 1, 1984:

Remembering Fr. Pete

James T. Fisher speaks about Karl Malden in the Irish Echo

Agitate! Educate! Organize! on PopMatters

On the PopMatters blog, Emily F. Popek reviews Agitate! Educate! Organize!: American Labor Posters by Lincoln Cushing and Timothy W. Drescher. She writes: “The core of this book is obviously the images it contains. Vivid, striking, colorful, arresting and at times even shocking, these posters speak loudly with voices of sorrow, righteousness, defiance and humor. Having such images recorded in digital form and archived with information about when, where and by whom they were created is of incalculable value to those who study American history or the history of populist visual art forms.” Read the whole review here.

Agitate! Educate! Organize! on PopMatters

Counter Culture: Candacy Taylor blog and Q & A

Visit Candacy Taylor’s new blog for her book Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress here.

We recently conducted an interview with Candacy Taylor in which she provides insights about the world captured in her book:

Q: Why career waitresses?

A: I am interested in career waitresses because it’s assumed by most people that it’s a job that anyone can do, but statistics report that only 1 in every 100 are really cut out for the job. I was a waitress myself for almost 8 years and after being exhausted after working a busy Friday night shift, I thought to myself, “How do women do this work past retirement age and how do they feel about their jobs?”

Q: What surprised you the most about this project?

A: Based on my own waitressing experience, I expected to meet women who felt overworked and underappreciated, but that’s not what I found. All but a few said they loved their jobs and if given the opportunity, they “wouldn’t do anything else.” Jean, a San Francisco waitress, said, “Like an actress, this is what I was born to do.” I thought, how can this be true? Waitressing can be grueling. And where were all the complaints about carpal tunnel syndrome and varicose veins? After five more years of research and listening to heartfelt testimonies about the job, I took a closer look at their lives. I analyzed their work environment. I studied theorists, academics, and historians who wrote about sociology, gender, labor, and restaurants. I considered that, although we had the same job, an older waitress’s experience might be different from mine because we were raised in a different time. There were benefits to working in a casual environment, and career waitresses knew the tricks of the trade to make the job easier.

Q: Even if they like the work, isn’t it hard to make a living?

A: In many cases, their seniority status earned them a higher hourly wage and respect from their coworkers and managers. Ironically, the physical and mental exercise that waitressing demands keeps them healthy instead of wearing them down, and most important, their regular customers made the job more enjoyable and profitable, they left better tips than strangers who were just passing through. Most of the career waitresses I interviewed were financially stable homeowners, drove newer cars, and many had sent their children to private schools. In general, these women were not struggling financially.

Q: Where did you go?

A: I traveled over 26,000 miles throughout the US. I have interviewed fifty-nine waitresses in forty-three cities.

Q: How are career waitresses different?

A: Career waitresses do more than just bring the food to the table. They are part psychiatrist, part grandmother, part friend, and they serve every walk of American life: from the retired and the widowed, to the wounded and the lonely and from the working class to the wealthy. These women have made an “art” out of the job. They warm the coffee cup for their favorite regular customers. They bring in special goodies from home, like chocolate syrup for their regulars’ ice cream or home-baked cookies. Their regulars practically worship them and will follow their favorite waitress from restaurant to restaurant her entire career. They are in a different league than most waitresses who are working until a “real” job comes along.

Q: What makes this book different from other books about waitresses?

A: Counter Culture is not a scholarly study, a memoir, or a historical account of waitressing. And even though there are photographs throughout the book, it’s more than a coffee-table book of a pop culture icon. It combines interview excerpts, cultural criticism, photography, and oral history to recognize an overlooked group of working women who have brought meaning to the American roadside dining experience. Each chapter takes a critical look at how career waitresses have taken a job that many people avoid and made it their livelihood.

Q: What did you learn most from doing this book?

A: Most importantly, I learned that fulfillment is not found in a 401(k) or a 5,000-square-foot house. Life is what you make it. So the next time you see a sixty-some-year-old waitress wiping down a table in a diner, don’t feel sorry for her. More likely than not, she’s content right where she is. Take it from Ruthie, a sixty-four-year old waitress in Sparks, Nevada, who says, “I just wish I had another thirty-five years to do it all over again.”

Counter Culture: Candacy Taylor blog and Q & A