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Labor Reading Group

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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, and it is not necessary to read every book with us.


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In January the Labor Reading Group began reading Eric Blanc's book Red State Revolt​, which covers the teachers' strikes in West Virginia, Arizona, and Oklahoma. It provides a vivid picture of the labor movement in non-industrial "care" economy sector ​​that includes health care, social work, and education. Blanc discusses how public sector workers are taking collective action in conservative "red states" where labor laws make it difficult or even illegal. It also explores the relationships between international affiliate leadership and resources and grassroots dynamism


  • January 25: pp. 1-76 (midpage)
  • February 22: pp. 76-153 (midpage)
  • March 28: pp. 153-212. Author Eric Blanc will join us for this discussion, which will be 90 minutes long this month. Register here for that discussion.


In April we will begin reading Class, Race and Gender: Challenging the Injuries and Divisions of Capitalism” by Michael Zweig. The author will be giving an in-person talk about the book in Portland in early April, sponsored by the USM Scontras Center. Watch here or sign up for our updates for more information as it becomes available.

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. Fill out this form to submit the book (or article or pamphlet) you’ve been waiting to read with friends.



Of course, you can always check your local library, or the Maine State Library! But... if you wish to purchase books yourself (any books!) we encourage you to either purchase the books at a local bookstore, or if you want to purchase online, to purchase from an online seller with union workers. Here are two we know of:

  • Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. Powell’s workers are members of International Longshore Workers Union Local 5 (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 to buy books), the union gets a commission on the sale, which they use for their strike fund. 
  • Greenlight Books, with a brick-and-mortar location in Brooklyn, NY, also has an e-commerce option. Workers there belong to the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) which is a division of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW)

Another online source is which, while not necessarily union, supports local independent bookstores. 

For the current reading, Red State Revolt, you can also purchase directly from the publisher. And if you do, a free e-book version is included with the paperback copy.

And finally...

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.