Kim Kelly, author of Fight Like Hell, talks unions in St. Louis


KIM KELLY (right), author of Fight Like Hell talks with (from left) Annie Shields of the News Guild of New York and Alicia Hernandez from Jobs with Justice during a book tour stop at Glaziers Local 513’s hall in St. Louis. – Labor Tribune photo

On a lovely autumn Sunday afternoon, Labor author Kim Kelly made a stop on her book tour at Glaziers Local 513 hall in St. Louis.

Kelly’s new book, Fight Like Hell: The Untold Story of American Labor (Simon and Schuster) came out in April of this year. The speaking event was organized by the Communication Workers of America and facilitated by Democratic Socialists of America.

Kelly began her writing career as a contributing writer submitting music reviews, making her way up through periodicals until landing a position with Vice News. At Vice, Kelly took an active role in organizing the historic Vice Union (Writers Guild of America, East). In recent years, she has focused on Labor writing, as well as fundraising for reproductive services (Riffs for Reproductive Justice).

Regarding Fight Like Hell, “I can finally write the inclusive radical Labor history in America. If we don’t write the historical narrative of inclusivity in Labor history, then we are just going to let the bosses divide us.”

When asked about obstacles in organizing, Kelly replied, “The biggest obstacle at Vice [News] was that so many people didn’t know what a union was. Unions are for everyone who is getting screwed over. Just because you aren’t wearing a hard hat doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a union.”

Kelly echoes many other young organizers today in pointing out that the heroes of written Labor history are all too often white men. Fight Like Hell focuses on Black women in the South, incarcerated workers who often go unpaid for their labor, and the isolation of workers with disabilities.

“Labor and disabilities rights intersect,” she said. “In fact, so many workers become part of the ranks of those with disabilities due to accidents on the job.”

When asked about modern organizing techniques, Kelly gave praise to the unconventional tactics of the Amazon Workers Union, United Auto Workers (ref: John Deere strike of 2021), and especially Starbucks Workers United. “The smartest thing SEIU did was get out of the way and let Workers United take the lead. Let the workers do the organizing.”

Kim Kelly also addressed the marathon strike at Warrior Met Coal near Tuscaloosa, Ala. Now in its 18th month, the Warrior Met Strike is the longest current work stoppage in America, and the longest in Alabama history. Kelly highlighted the efforts made by the UMWA Auxiliary, which has successfully gathered donations and organized strike relief.

In the audience for the book talk were representatives from Sheet Metal Workers Local 36, Communication Workers of America 6300, Teamsters 688, CWA Media Guild, a great number of Starbucks Workers United, and retired unionists.

Fight Like Hell is available in hardback, paperback, and audiobook. In solidarity with Amazon workers fighting to organize, don’t buy it from Amazon.


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