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Ten years ago in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Nashville, Tennessee, HarperCollins shut down its last two remaining U.S. warehouses, after a series of such closings had left an untold number of workers unemployed. CEO Brian Murray offered these words of corporate right-think: “We have taken a long-term, global view. . . . We are retooling the traditional distribution model to ensure we can competitively offer the entire Harper­Collins catalog to customers regardless of location.” If you were one of the thousands of people whose lives were changed as a result of this round of consolidations and offshorings, it was likely little comfort that the authors of ­HarperCollins would find the “broadest possible reach.” Your chief concern was probably more mundane, more domestic, and even, dare we say, provincial in nature, namely: Was there anything that could have helped you keep your decent job in the town where your family lived?

Jane McAlevey argues that the answer is yes: What you lacked was a strong union. And she is right, though whether anyone outside the labor left will listen is another question. Within the labor movement, McAlevey is something of a celebrity. Her last book, No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age, became such a commonplace in those circles that many old hands grew sick of talking about it. Yet outside the ever-shrinking population of union workers and organizers, McAlevey is a non-entity. That fact reflects a wider trend: the marginalization of unions within American society.

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