Labor Historian Staughton Lynd's Book Is Embraced by Google Workers and Uber DriversHistorians in the News
tags: historians, Google, labor history, Uber
But the argument that gained the upper hand, especially as the debate escalated in the weeks after the walkout, held that those approaches would be futile, according to two people involved. Those who felt this way contended that only a less formal, worker-led organization could succeed, by waging mass resistance or implicitly threatening to do so.
This view, based on century-old ideas, did not emerge in a vacuum. It can be traced in part to a book called “Labor Law for the Rank and Filer,” which many Googlers had read and discussed.
Its authors are a longtime labor historian, Staughton Lynd, and an organizer, Daniel Gross. They identify with a strain of unionism popularized in the early 1900s by the Industrial Workers of the World, a radical labor group known as the Wobblies that defined itself in opposition to mainstream trade unions.
The book has been “incredibly helpful in thinking through options for action, ways of building collective power, and giving workers who often aren’t familiar with labor law some working knowledge that can guide decision making,” said Meredith Whittaker, a leader of the walkout who left Google in July after more than a dozen years at the company.
And Googlers aren’t the only ones who have drawn inspiration from the book. Workers at the crowdfunding company Kickstarter, the site of a recent union campaign, have studied it. Organizers with one of the largest Uber driver groups say the ideas have influenced them as well.