We are living in what appears to be unprecedented times for the organized labor movement, with workers at companies like Starbucks and Amazon recently making headlines for forming unions in work environments that have not been, to say the least, not the most hospitable to progressive activism. . Despite the best efforts of the likes of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, there has rarely been a more exciting time to work in America.
In his new book, Fight Like Hell: The Untold Story of American Labor (now off Atria), however, Teen Vogue columnist and labor journalist Kim Kelly carefully places the current resurgence of union power in historical context, recounting some of the most powerful moments in labor history – from the multiracial alliance that helped organize Michigan’s auto industry to unsafe working conditions and legal limitations affecting California’s incarcerated firefighters, with depth and nuance.
vogue recently spoke to Kelly about the release of her book and the facets of the modern labor movement she wants more media to report on. Read the full interview below.
vogue: First of all, how did you start writing about organized labor?
Kim Kelly: It was probably one of the most unorthodox ways to get into it! I’ve spent most of my life in the music industry, particularly heavy metal, and in 2015 when I was working at Vice, the editorial staff unionized with the Writers Guild of America East . I remember going for coffee with two of my co-workers, and they said, all underground, “Hey, we’re thinking about unionizing. What do you think about that?” I was like, “Damn, yeah. We make $30,000 a year to live in New York while our bosses own the Surroundings house, and we really need a union. I got super involved; I was at every meeting, at every committee and at every negotiation session, and it became a bit like a second job, but a job that I wanted to have. [Laughs.]
As a former Vice employee, I can attest to the quality of your work!
Thank you! I’ve always been interested in working as a history nerd, but I didn’t think I had any credibility to write about it because I’m just a heavy metal maniac who writes about anarchist shit on a website. [Laughs.] Why would someone trust me with this story, right? But after kind of living on the job for a little while and doing all this research and learning all the laws and getting an education on the job, I decided, you know what, I’m going to give it a shot. That’s what interests me. That’s what excites me. I will write work stories. I was fired in 2019 and signed the contract for my book about a year later.