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Workers are forced to join unions. Unions are destroying the economy. Unions are headed toward extinction. These slogans may resonate on Wall Street, but on Main Street they’re mere spin. That’s the premise of “They’re Bankrupting Us!” And 20 Other Myths About Unions, the new book by longtime labor leader and activist Bill Fletcher Jr., who is also immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and co-founder of the Black Radical Congress. Fletcher recently talked to Nicole Crawford-Tichawonna about his new book, President Barack Obama’s base, and whether he’ll vote to re-elect America’s first black president.
NC-T: Why did you write this book?
BF: One, Beacon Press asked me to write it. Shortly after the 2011 uprising [of public workers] in Madison, Wisconsin, there was all this [media] attention on unions, yet many people didn’t know about unions.
Second, in early 2011, I was on a plane, flying from San Jose to San Diego on my way home to Maryland. I was sitting next to this young woman, probably in her 30s, and I was reading Global Restructuring: Labour and the Challenges for Transnational Solidarity. She was very friendly. She looked over at what I was reading and asked about it. I explained what the book was about, and she looked me straight in my eyes and said, “What is a union?” I thought she was joking, but when I realized that she was serious, I explained to her what a union was. She was nodding her head in a way that you know someone has no idea what you’re talking about. So I wrote the book with her in mind.
NC-T: Who should read this book?
BF: It’s for people, obviously, like the woman on the plane, but it’s also for people who know very little about unions but watch too much Fox News. I also wrote it with union members in mind. A lot of union members don’t really understand unions.