by David Ranney
David Ranney's vivid memoir describes his work experiences between 1976 and 1982 in the factories of southeast Chicago and northwest Indiana, one of the heaviest industrial concentrations in the world. The author takes the reader on a walk through the heart of Chicago's South Side, observing the noise, heavy traffic, the 24-hour restaurants and bars, the rich diversity of people on the streets at all hours of the day and night, and the smell of the highly polluted air. Factory life includes stints at a machine shop, a shortening factory, a railroad car factory, a structural steel shop, a box factory, a chemical plant, and a paper cup factory. Along the way there is a wildcat strike, an immigration raid, shop-floor actions protesting supervisor abuses, serious injuries, a failed effort to unionize, and a murder. Ranney's emphasis is on race and class relations, working conditions, environmental issues, and broader social issues in the 1970s that impacted the shop floor. Forty years later, the narrator returns to Chicago's South Side to reveal what happened to the communities, buildings, and the companies that had inhabited them. Living and Dying on the Factory Floor concludes with discussions on the nature of work; racism, race, and class; the use of immigration policy for social control; and our ability to create a just society.
"David Ranney's is our best account of the New Left's turn to the factory and other workplaces in the seventies. Reading in some parts like a novel, it introduces us to a remarkable cast of working-class characters, while offering a refreshingly critical look at his own experiences. We get compelling views of factory work, including the physical dangers and injuries that came with it, as well as a better understanding of a range of New Left organizing efforts. With the experience of a radical organizer and the insights of a very good social scientist, Ranney writes with particular sensitivity about race relations in the workplace." --James R. Barret, author of History from the Bottom Up & the Inside Out: Ethnicity, Race, and Identity in Working-Class History
About the Author:
David Ranney is professor emeritus in the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois Chicago. Ranney has also been a factory worker, a labor and community organizer, and an activist academic. He is the author of four books and more than 100 other published works.