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.


We are currently reading The Next Shift: The Fall of Industry and the Rise of Health Care in Rust Belt America." There are many parallels to our situation in Maine and it's a wonderful follow-up to our reading about the paper industry that we wrapped up in January. Author Gabriel Winant will join us for the final discussion - you can register for that event here.

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

  • January 27 - Introduction: When Workers Disappear
  • February 24 - Chapters 1 & 2
    Down in the Hole: Steelmaking Pittsburgh in the 1950s
    Dirty Laundry: Labor and Love in the Working-Class Home
  • March 24 - Chapters 3 & 4
    “You Are Only Poor If You Have No One to Turn To”: Race, Geography, and Cooperation
  • April 21 - Chapters 4& 5
    Doctor New Deal: Social Rights and the Making of the Health Care Market
    Enduring Disaster: The Recycling of the Working Class
  • May 26 - Chapter 6 & Epilogue
    “The Task of Survival”: The Commodification of Care and the Transformation of Labor
    PLUS - author Gabriel Winant will join us for this disucssion and we will meet from 5:30 to 7:00 on that evening.


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 and the next reading will be selected sometime in April or May of 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” by Jane McAlevey
  • July through December 2021 - "Shredding Paper: The Rise and Fall of Maine's Mighty Paper Industry" by Michael Hillard


We are currently running a pilot program supplying books to those who will be reading with us and don't already have a copy. Sign up here to let us know you’ll be reading with us and indicate whether you want a copy of the book (offer closed Dec 31, 2021 for The Next Shift).

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 Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. 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.