“Beaten Down, Worked Up,” by former New York Times labor correspondent Steven Greenhouse, called a “riveting account of the rise and fall of organized labor,” by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich;

Greenhouse devotes entire chapter to the history of the CIW, from the early strikes in the 1990s to the Campaign for Fair Food today, including a detailed look at the ground-breaking success of the Fair Food Program!

Steven Greenhouse, the award-wining reporter who spent nearly two decades covering labor for the New York Times, has published his second book, titled “Beaten Down, Worked Up,” a thoroughgoing history and analysis of the US labor movement that examines “the roots of [labor’s] problems and what we as individuals and as a nation can do to address and hopefully fix them.”  The book, which debuted just last week, is a must-read, and has already received several excellent reviews from newspapers like the Washington Post and the LA Times, as well as from many key labor and progressive voices, including former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and publisher of The Nation, Katrina Vanden Heuvel.  

Greenhouse’s first book, “The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker,” was a comprehensive look at the many challenges facing workers across the US economy in the 21st century.  His new book widens the lens, taking a look back in time at the history of the US labor movement and highlighting several current, successful efforts by workers – union and non-union alike – to improve their working conditions and defend their dignity on the job.  It is toward this latter objective that Greenhouse dedicates an entire chapter to the CIW, from the early days of immigrant workers from Haiti, Guatemala and Mexico coming together in Immokalee to confront the extreme exploitation they faced in the fields – including widespread sexual violence and modern-day slavery – to the unprecedented success of the CIW’s Fair Food Program and the Worker-driven Social Responsibility model to which it gave birth. 

The opening paragraphs of the Washington Post review provide an excellent sense of the book’s trajectory, and of the place of the CIW’s story in Greenhouse’s analysis:

August 9

A dozen years ago, migrant workers in the “winter tomato capital” of Immokalee, Fla., arrived for work around 7 a.m. but had to wait up to four hours, unpaid, for the sun to dry the plants before they could start picking and start getting paid. For many, the goal was to earn $60 a day, which meant picking 4,800 pounds of tomatoes in the blistering sun without any breaks or shade. As Steven Greenhouse writes in his new book, “Beaten Down, Worked Up,” crew leaders regularly cheated pickers out of $10 or $15 of their wages or withheld pay altogether. “When workers complained, the crew leaders sometimes beat them or fired them,” Greenhouse writes. “Female workers had it worst of all. Crew leaders frequently groped them or demanded sex if women wanted to keep their jobs.”

The troubles in the tomato fields of Florida reflect worker conditions in America at the extreme, Greenhouse suggests. But millions of workers generally face dire circumstances. Despite holding regular paying jobs, many are consigned to poverty. In “Beaten Down, Worked Up,” Greenhouse tells the history of the labor movement through the 20th century to today. He recounts some of labor’s greatest successes, such as a 1950 agreement between the United Auto Workers and General Motors that expanded provisions for pensions and health care nationally, and he resurrects some of labor’s greatest failures, such as air-traffic controllers’ unsuccessful strike in 1981, which emboldened a much harder line against unions.

Each success story highlights the leaders and strategies behind the breakthrough. Greenhouse takes us through Walter Reu­ther’s maverick negotiation of the 1950 automakers’ agreement, the “Treaty of Detroit”; Labor Secretary Frances Perkins’s skilled backing of the most labor-friendly portions of the New Deal, including unemployment benefits and the first minimum-wage and overtime laws; and an ingenious 21st-century campaign by Haitian and American organizers to improve conditions for the tomato pickers in Immokalee by pressuring some of the largest tomato purchasers (Taco Bell and McDonald’s) to in turn pressure recalcitrant tomato growers to provide better working conditions… READ MORE >>

Greenhouse’s book is a truly significant contribution to the conversation on the state of labor in the 21st century, and will surely be an important part of the curriculum for students of economics, political science, and social change for years to come.  To encourage you to take the plunge and check out Greenhouse’s important new book yourself, we will close with the words of Alissa Quart, author of “Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America”:

Steven Greenhouse has been a paragon of labor reporting for decades. This crucial book—comprehensive, deeply informed and empathic—is something of a culmination of his efforts, capturing both the outrage of exploitation and the excitement of new movements. It’s an inspiring, richly-sourced account of what American work and workers really mean today.

You can find “Beaten Down, Worked Up” online or at a bookstore near you.




One Saturday, two Americas…

August 6, 2019

Harsh reality of hatred and division shatters celebration of unity and justice as two starkly opposed visions of the future clash on one Saturday afternoon… Today we had planned to post a photo report from the CIW’s visit to DC over this past weekend, a celebration of the CIW’s decades-long fight for dignity and justice for the workers who put food on America’s tables, centered around a visit to the CIW’s Statue of Liberty at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History.   But Saturday’s events in El Paso, Texas, derailed those plans. The post was going to begin with photos […]

Blockbuster new cookbook by Chef José Andrés highlights CIW and Fair Food Program!…

July 30, 2019

New York Times bestseller: “Fair Food Program… takes direct aim at the food system’s gravest injustices and holds major retailers accountable for the food they sell.” Chef José Andrés – the irrepressible, James Beard Award-winning, Spanish chef who, among many other things in his non-stop mission to feed and change the world, traveled to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria and provided meals for hundreds of thousands of people whose lives were upended by that devastating storm – has done it again.  He has published his third New York Times bestselling cookbook, titled “Vegetables Unleashed,” and this time […]

UK’s Sunday Times Letter to the Editor highlights Fair Food Program as solution to forced labor, sexual abuse in European agriculture!

July 25, 2019

Sunday Times UK Letter to the Editor:  The Fair Food Program “harnesses the purchasing power of buyers through legally binding agreements that hold buyers accountable, and it has eradicated slavery and sexual abuse in the fields.” Earlier this month (and in the wake of the horrific accounts of exploitation facing migrant workers in the Italian and Spanish agricultural industries in The Guardian), the United Kingdom’s Sunday Times published an article on the disturbing conditions on farms in British consumers’ own back yards.  Titled “Britain’s biggest trafficking gang used slaves to supply top supermarkets,” the breaking investigative piece not only detailed […]

Sept. 26-29, 2019: Student/Farmworker Alliance announces annual Encuentro in Immokalee!

July 14, 2019

Students, youth set to gather for massive strategy session for the Wendy’s Boycott, Boot the Braids Campaign… Even as CIW and Alliance for Fair Food organizers criss-cross the United States on a series of “Boot the Braids” Truth Tours this summer, young people around the country are preparing for one the most exciting times of the year:  The annual SFA Encuentro in Immokalee!  Building off this past spring’s “4 for Fair Food Tour” and the precedent-setting victory in the Boot the Braids Campaign at the University of Michigan, students are readying for the Encuentro, during which SFA activists flood into […]

United Church of Christ presents the “Movement Maker” Award to CIW!

July 2, 2019

Rev. Traci Blackmon, UCC Associate Minister of Justice and Local Ministries: The CIW “has embodied [the UCC ethos] with clarity, determination, resilience and strength on behalf of farmworkers whose holy work of planting and harvesting benefits us all.” Last week, on June 22nd, thousands of church leaders rose to their feet in a rousing ovation as the United Church of Christ named the Coalition of Immokalee Workers the recipients of their prestigious Movement Maker Award as the General Synod met in Milwaukee. The Rev. Traci Blackmon, Associate Minister of Justice and Local Ministries who hails from the frontlines of Ferguson, […]

The Guardian: Europe’s “healthy Mediterranean diet is, sometimes, the fruit of 21st-century slavery…”

June 28, 2019

The Guardian: “[European] supermarkets and their suppliers cite their use of certifications that are intended to reassure consumers that the goods we buy are produced under legal labour practices. But as these stories demonstrate, such figleaves are totally unreliable, and simply make the consumer unwittingly complicit: those purchasing Italian produce are unaware that their healthy Mediterranean diet is, sometimes, the fruit of 21st-century slavery…” Today, we wanted to bring you some news from across the pond. When we think of Europe – home to the United Nations and the European Union, birthplace of Fair Trade – we may envision a […]

When the Sunday funnies get real…

June 26, 2019

  The CSR model stops at solving the problem it was intended to solve — public relations crises — for the actors it was intended to serve, the global brands.  The WSR model, on the other hand, doesn’t stop until it addresses, and ultimately prevents, the human rights violations at the root of the public relations crises.  That is because WSR is designed by the very workers whose rights are in question, and is intended to end the abuse, poverty, and violence those workers face. The cartoon at the top of this post appeared earlier this month in Sunday comic […]

“The movement of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has seeded grassroots movements around the country…”

June 19, 2019

The promise of Worker-driven Social Responsibility:  “[The CIW’s] visionary leadership and unceasing support played a key role in the launch of Milk with Dignity, a worker-driven social responsibility program that is transforming the dairy industry, just as the Fair Food Program has transformed the tomato industry, to ensure respect and dignity for workers.” In August of 2017, we woke up to a stunning, and quite unexpected, article that had just come out in the Harvard Business Review.  There – on a list that also included car seats, Sesame Street, and the cure for polio – was the Fair Food Program, […]

Australian news hub: The Fair Food Program is “the kind of change we need to see if we’re to eradicate sexual harassment once and for all.”

June 14, 2019

Independent Australia highlights Fair Food Program, calls on business leaders to take action: “…those leaders brave enough to face the problem and commit to solving it have much to gain, not the least of which is a positive impact on the bottom line.” Even Down Under, the Fair Food Program is blowing up! An excellent article came out yesterday on the escalating crisis of sexual harassment and assault in Australia, published by the Independent Australia news hub.  For anyone unfamiliar with the Australian news media landscape, Independent Australia is a fantastic journal focusing on “politics, democracy, the environment, Australian history and Australian […]

Alliance for Fair Food announces “Faith in Fair Food” Summer Tour!

June 4, 2019

Faith communities make plans to turn up the heat on Wendy’s across the state of Florida, from Orlando to Tampa, Miami, Homestead, Ft. Lauderdale, Naples, and Sarasota this summer! Hot on the heels of the announcement of this summer’s Boot the Braids Tours, during which students and farmworkers will be mobilizing to kick Wendy’s off campuses from coast to coast, the Alliance for Fair Food has announced another major mobilization right here in Fair Food’s home state of Florida: the “Faith in Fair Food” Tour!  As we saw in Gainesville during the final stop of this spring’s 4 for Fair Food […]