'We Are All Fast-Food Workers Now': The Global Uprising Against Poverty Wages

"This is not a story about other people." Historian and author Annelise Orleck (Storming Caesar's Palace) toured the world to interview workers and activists for "We Are All Fast-Food Workers Now" a vivid, well-grounded survey of the new global labor movement. The movement, she says, is a reaction against the spread of "free" capitalism as a force for prosperity and freedom. Those who have done most of the spreading "only espoused certain kinds of freedom: from trade barriers and labor regulations; from robust taxes to redistribute wealth and fund education, infrastructure and health care; from environmental regulations that might limit profits as they slowed climate change and reduced poisons in our air and water." Orleck offers historical context and citations, and she is also clear about her strong sympathies. "I make no pretense of objectivity." The people she profiles are all fighting for similar things--respect, safety, a living wage, opportunities for their children--and collaborating across cultures, languages and national boundaries.

Orleck evokes people and places with vivid energy and tactile details. Reading straight through is exhilarating and a little exhausting: you're in Manila, watching teenagers dance/protest to Katy Perry, then at an organizer's meeting at a Cuban café in Florida, then off to Bangladesh, Cambridge, São Paulo, South Africa, Vermont. The pages hum with stories and with the adrenaline of workplace and protest situations that threaten starvation, abuse, prison and death. The struggle is real, but so are the successes, of which there are many. Faced with so much bravery, creativity, moral authority and persistence, readers may be inspired to join in. --Sara Catterall

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