Labour Research June 2012


Rank and file

Personal histories by working class organizers

Edited by Alice Lynd and Staughton Lynd, Haymarket Books, 326 pages, paperback, £14.99

This is a very timely reprint and update of a classic American book. First published in 1973, it is a collection of vibrant oral testimonies documenting the trials and tribulations of union organisers, from the 1930s through to the 1970s.

Dozens of working-class activists tell their stories in their own words. From founding unions to responding to sexism, safety violations and fear from within the ranks, this book brings to life the hidden history of union organisers.

Alice Lynd was a member of a union of clerical workers in the 1950s, and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers’ Union in the 1970s. As a labour lawyer she helped nurses to organise an independent union; assisted laid-off workers when they lost pension, healthcare and other benefits; filed occupational health and safety claims; and litigated employment discrimination cases.

Staughton Craig Lynd was a conscientious objector, a civil rights activist, tax resister, historian, professor and author.

This is one of the best works of oral history produced by radical historians and serves as a chronicle of modern political events often ignored in mainstream history.

Reviews contributed by the Bookmarks socialist bookshop. Order online at