On the Line

Regular price $26.95
From an experienced labor organizer, a clear-eyed, gritty, yet lyrical memoir about two women fighting to organize an Arizona factory and about the transformative power of collective action.

On the Line is the story of a bold, five-year campaign to unionize the dangerous industrial laundry factories in deep red Arizona, led by 25-year-old Daisy Pitkin, a newly hired organizer for UNITE, an international garment workers union, and Alma, a second-shift immigrant factory worker who risks her livelihood to lead her coworkers in their campaign for safer working conditions. Their struggle illuminates the harsh realities that workers in these factories face—routine exposure to biohazardous waste, surgical tools left in hospital sheets, and overheating machinery—as well as the ways broken U.S. labor law makes it nearly impossible for them to fight back. Their team prevails by exposing the company’s retaliatory firings and threats against workers who support the union and by convincing workers who fear losing their jobs to take a stand.
Forged in the flames of a vicious anti-union campaign and grueling legal battle, the relationships that grow between Pitkin, Alma, and the other factory workers show how a union, at its best, can reach beyond the workplace and form a solidarity so powerful it can transcend friendship and transform us and the communities in which we live. But when political strife divides UNITE, and damages her friendship with Alma along with it, Pitkin is forced to reflect on her own position of privilege and the power imbalances inherent to any top-down organizing movement.
On the Line is a confessional account of this reckoning, addressed to Alma. Pitkin comes to reject what she had been trained to believe about power as a young organizer—that it is a zero-sum game, wrested from companies by workers through fights fueled by anger. Instead, she finds that worker power is rooted in the trust, care, grit, and solidarity people find in one another. Drawing on labor history, today’s headlines, and personal experiences, On the Line is a long overdue look at the modern-day labor movement, how difficult it is to build a truly democratic union, and why we can’t afford to stop trying now.