Labor Reading Group



Members of the Maine AFL-CIO and friends of labor meet monthly to discuss labor related books and articles. Maine AFL-CIO President Cynthia Phinney hosts the reading group meetings. Meetings are currently held on Zoom from 5:30 to 6:30 on the fourth Thursday of each month, or occasionally other times or dates. Readings are chosen by the group and discussions are facilitated by group members or occasional special guests.

 To join the group and be notified of meeting details please contact Cynthia at cynthia at "maineaflcio dot org" and put "Reading Group" in the subject line. Visit our events page to find out when the next meeting is. It is not necessary to complete the entire book to participate in the discussions.


Beginning in July of 2021 we are reading “Shredding Paper: The Rise and Fall of Maine’s Mighty Paper Industry” by Michael Hillard. Michael lives in Maine and teaches at the University of Southern Maine. A reader on the Goodreads website succinctly reviewed the book this way, “Enjoyed this more than I expected. Great look at an industry and a labor movement vital to Maine’s past and future.” If you would like to learn about the history of Maine’s paper industry and talk about it from a worker/labor perspective with other union members, plan to join us.

Tentative reading schedule (4th Thursdays, 5:30-6:30pm)

  • July 22 – Introduction
  • August 26 – Part 1 (Chapters 1-2)
  • September 23 – Part 2 (Chapters 3-5)
  • October 21 – Part 3 (Chapters 6-8)
  • December 2 (due to Thanksgiving holiday) – (Epilogue)


Is there a labor-related book you’ve been wanting to read? Would you love to discuss it with other people with a labor focus? The Maine AFL-CIO Labor Reading Group is always open to suggestions of things to read. Submissions are open until Friday, October 29, for the reading to begin in January 2022. Fill out this form to submit the book (or article or pamphlet) you’ve been waiting to read with friends.


  • February and March 2020 – “No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age” by Jane McAlevey
  • April through December 2020 – “How to Be an Anti-Racist” by Ibram X. Kendi
  • January and February 2021 – “Race to Labor” by Bill Fletcher Jr.
  • March through June 2021 – “A Collective Bargain: Unions, Organizing, and the Fight for Democracy”


We encourage you to either purchase the books at a local bookstore, or if you want to purchase online, to purchase from Powell’s Books in Portland, OR. Powell’s workers have a union (ILWU Local 5) and if you go to the Powell’s website via the store link at the union’s website (go to their “support” section and click the link for the store), the union gets a commission on the sale, which they use for their strike fund. Another online source is which, while not union, supports local independent bookstores.

Questions From a Worker Who Reads

By Bertolt Brecht 

Who built Thebes of the 7 gates ? 
In the books you will read the names of kings. 
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock ? 

And Babylon, many times demolished, 
Who raised it up so many times ? 

In what houses of gold glittering Lima did its builders live ? 
Where, the evening that the Great Wall of China was finished, did the masons go?

Great Rome is full of triumphal arches. 
Who erected them ? 

Over whom did the Caesars triumph ?  
Had Byzantium, much praised in song, only palaces for its inhabitants ? 

Even in fabled Atlantis, the night that the ocean engulfed it, 
The drowning still cried out for their slaves. 

The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone ? 

Caesar defeated the Gauls. 
Did he not even have a cook with him ? 

Philip of Spain wept when his armada went down. 
Was he the only one to weep ?  

Frederick the 2nd won the 7 Years War. 
Who else won it ? 

Every page a victory. 
Who cooked the feast for the victors ?  

Every 10 years a great man. 
Who paid the bill ? 

So many reports.  

So many questions.