Skilled Hands, Strong Spirits: A Century of Building Trades History
By Grace Palladino
Skilled Hands, Strong Spirits follows the history of the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO from the emergence of building trades councils in the age of the skyscraper. It takes the reader through treacherous fights over jurisdiction as new building materials and methods of work evolved; and describes numerous Department campaigns to improve safety standards, work with contractors to promote unionized construction, and forge a sense of industrial unity among its fifteen (and at times nineteen) autonomous and highly diverse affiliates. Arranged chronologically, Skilled Hands, Strong Spirits is based on archival research in Department, AFL-CIO, and U.S. government records as well as numerous union journals, the local and national press, and interviews with former Department officers.
Grace Palladino makes the history of the building trades come alive. By investigating the sources of conflict and unity within the Building and Construction Trades Department over time, and demonstrating how building trades unions dealt with problems and opportunities in the past, she provides a historical context for the current generation of workers and leaders as they devise new strategies to suit their current situation. Although the book was a "work for hire," commissioned by the Department, Palladino says both the Department and the publisher "left it to me to research and write as I saw fit."
"Grace Palladino’s Skilled Hands, Strong Spirits is a comprehensive institutional history of the national building trades unions. She describes the unchanging conflicts – the debates over centralized authority vs. local autonomy, inter-union rivalries, and jurisdictional disputes – that have served to divide more often than unite this wing of the labor movement. In today’s challenging environment, new strategies and approaches are more important than ever if construction workers are to be justly rewarded for their difficult and dangerous labor."304 pages paperback
MARK ERLICH, NEW ENGLAND REGIONAL COUNCIL OF CARPENTERS, AUTHOR OF WITH OUR HANDS AND LABOR AT THE BALLOT BOX
"There have been few serious studies of national construction unions since the era when labor history was a branch of labor economics. Moreover, there has been virtually no good history of construction unionism at the national level since then. Skilled Hands, Strong Spirits fills that gap admirably."
RICHARD SCHNEIROV, INDIANA STATE UNIVERSITY