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The Hammer

The Hammer

Power, Inequality, and the Struggle for the Soul of Labor

Hamilton Nolan
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A timely, in-depth, and vital exploration of the American labor movement and its critical place in our society and politics by acclaimed labor reporter Hamilton Nolan. 

The thesis is simple: Inequality is America's biggest problem. Unions are the single strongest tool that working people have to fix this problem. But the labor movement of today has failed to enable enough individuals to join unions. Thus, organized labor's powerful potential is being wielded incompetently. And what is happening inside of organized labor will--far more than most people realize--determine the economic and social course of American life for years to come.

In deeply reported chapters that span the country, Nolan shows readers how organized labor can and does wield power effectively--in spots--but also why it has long been unable to build itself into the powerful institution that the working class needs. These narratives both inspire by example and motivate by counter-example. Whether it's a union that has succeeded in a single city, and is trying to scale that effectiveness nationally, or the ins and outs of a historically large and transformative union campaign, or the human face of a strike, or a profile of the most anti-union state in America, Nolan highlights the actual mechanisms that connect labor to politics to real change. Throughout, Nolan follows Sara Nelson, the powerful and charismatic head of the flight attendants' union, as she struggles with how (and whether) to assert herself as a national leader of the labor movement, to try to fix what is broken about it. The Hammer draws the line from forgotten workplaces to Washington's halls of power, and shows how labor can utterly transform American politics--if it can first transform itself.

Nolan is an expert who has covered labor and politics for more than a decade, and has helped to unionize his own industry. The time has come for his poignant and enlightening book as we prepare for the historic 2024 presidential election. The Hammer is a unique on-the-ground excavation of the present and the future of the labor movement. It is the story of what the labor movement can be, and why it isn't that...yet.


Hamilton Nolan is a labor journalist who writes regularly for In These Times magazine and The Guardian. He has written about labor, politics, and class war for The New York Times, the Washington Post, Gawker, Splinter, and other publications. He was the longest-serving writer in Gawker's history, and was a leader in unionizing Gawker Media in 2015. Hamilton is a proud member of the Writers Guild of America, East. He lives in Brooklyn.


  • Publisher: Hachette Books
  • Publish Date: February 13, 2024
  • Pages: 272
  • Dimensions: 0.0 X 0.0 X 0.0 inches | 0.0 pounds
  • Language: English
  • Type: Hardcover
  • EAN/UPC: 9780306830921
  • BISAC Categories: Political Ideologies - Democracy, Social Classes & Economic Disparity, Labor - Unions, Labor & Industrial Relations


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