Fred Glass's From Mission to Microchip is an engaging account of West Coast working-class history and labor institutions from the early nineteenth century to the early twenty-first century. Accessible and well written, the book characterizes developments in urban and rural California, connecting San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, and the Central Valley. The author summarizes the work of other historians and presents original research about labor activism in the state. From Mission to Microchip will be useful for instructors writing lectures on U.S. history, for undergraduates studying labor since the gold rush, and for graduate students and others researching the history of California. It should also be valuable to members of the general public—inside and outside of the labor movement—interested in social movements, labor rights, immigration, and California politics. In thirty-two concise chapters, Glass moves from Spanish colonization to the 2012 elections. His narrative of the pre–Civil War period is the least satisfying, but the book gains steam covering post-1860 industrialization, railroad building, immigrant organizing and anti-Asian politics, and late nineteenth-century urbanization. Glass draws attention to the rise of mechanized farming, the wheat economy, efforts to establish open shops in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and interracial organizing among Japanese Americans and Mexican Americans. Strong chapters on the early twentieth century explore unionization drives, the political influence of labor leaders, and probusiness responses to labor radicalism. Glass captures Great Depression struggles, wildcat strikes, labor relations in Hollywood, and the development of the Congress of Industrial Organizations during the 1930s. Examining the economic growth spurred by World War II, From Mission to Microchip juxtaposes a new middle class and its ascendant business unionism with the rise of farm worker organizing and public sector unionism from the 1940s to the 1960s, the development of teacher unions, and intersections between civil rights, postwar feminism, and Vietnam War–era labor struggles. The book's terrific final chapters trace more recent challenges to California's automobile industry, campaigns by immigrant janitors, and organizing efforts involving firefighters, nurses, and educators in the twenty-first century. In highlighting worker struggles to shape an equitable economic and political system, Glass offers a mostly upbeat portrait of California's past and future. From Mission to Microchip is broad in scope and impressively detailed, providing a wide-ranging social and political history of a long and complicated era. The book contains little cultural history, but stories of individual workers and key leaders drive much of its discussion, as do unions and community organizations. Although some might wish for a greater focus on Native Americans, Asian Americans, and women, readers will appreciate Glass's attention to African American and Latina/o histories, to service and public sector workers, and to the electoral efforts of unions. The absence of footnotes, particularly on understudied topics, is unfortunate, and some readers might lose track of larger national and international contexts because of the book's regional focus. But this excellent survey deserves attention and should guide future historical studies of California's labor movement. © The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Organization of American Historians. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Journal of American History – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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