Our September 2020 pick for the PBS NewsHour-New York Times book club is Steven Greenhouse’s “Beaten Down, Worked Up.” Become a member of the Now Read This book club by joining our Facebook group, or by signing up to our newsletter. Learn more about the book club here.
Below are questions to help guide your discussions as you read the book over the next month. You can also submit your own questions for Steven Greenhouse on our Google form. Greenhouse will answer reader questions about “Beaten Down, Worked Up” on the PBS NewsHour at the end of the month.
WARNING: Spoiler alert on questions further down
- What historical event in Greenhouse’s book most galvanized the American labor movement, in your view?
- Describe one scene or moment in history that Greenhouse included in his book that surprised you or taught you something you didn’t learn in your own history classes.
- Why, in your view, is Walter Reuther remembered as being particularly adept at organizing automobile workers? What struck you about the deal he helped achieve for the UAW?
- The Culinary Workers Union is one of the more recent successful efforts detailed in Greenhouse’s book. What do you think ensured its success?
- How is the labor movement tied to the current conversation about racial justice in the U.S.?
- Has the coronavirus pandemic made you think differently about labor and workers’ rights in the U.S.? How do the lessons of Greenhouse’s book apply to the current economic crisis?
- Did you disagree with any of Greenhouse’s arguments about the necessity for stronger labor protections and unions in the U.S.? If so, why?
- Have you witnessed events in your own workplace or community when, in your opinion, unions have gotten too powerful?
- Have you ever participated in or been affected by a strike? If so, tell us about it.
- Did Greenhouse’s book change your mind about unions? Why or why not?
- Do you feel you have a better understanding of why American unions and worker power have declined after reading this book? How so?
- “The bottom line is America wants cheap tomatoes,” one attorney representing Florida growers who abused farmworkers says in the book. How do you see America’s capitalist system affecting the fight for fair labor laws and worker protections?
- As the so-called “gig economy”grows, how are the needs of part-time workers for companies such as Uber and Instacart changing?
- Do you believe you’ll see labor reforms like the ones Greenhouse envisions enacted in your lifetime? Why or why not?