Episode 133: Fight Like Hell with Kim Kelly

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with the author of Fight Like Hell : The Untold History of American Labor, Kim Kelly. Kelly is an independent journalist, author, and organizer. She has been a regular labor columnist for Teen Vogue since 2018, and her writing on labor, class, politics, and culture has appeared in The New Republic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Baffler, The Nation, The Columbia Journalism Review, and Esquire, among many others. Kelly has also worked as a video correspondent for More Perfect Union, The Real News Network, and Means TV. Previously, she was the heavy metal editor at “Noisey,” VICE’s music vertical, and was an original member of the VICE Union. A third-generation union member, she is a member of the Industrial Workers of the World’s Freelance Journalists Union as well as a member and elected councilperson for the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE).  Kelly’s profoundly researched book shares the stories of working-class heroes who propelled American labor’s relentless push for fairness and equal protection under the law. Those champions of American labor include freed Black women organizing for protection in the Reconstruction-era South, Jewish immigrant garment workers braving deadly conditions for a sliver of independence, Asian American fieldworkers rejecting government-sanctioned indentured servitude across the Pacific, Incarcerated workers advocating for basic human rights and fair wages, and the queer Black labor leader who helped orchestrate America’s civil rights movement. Throughout Fight Like Hell, Kelly excavates these untold histories and shows how the rights the American worker possess today — the forty-hour workweek, workplace-safety standards, restrictions on child labor, protection from harassment and discrimination on the job — were earned with literal blood, sweat, and tears. Fight Like Hell comes at a time of economic reckoning in America. From Amazon’s warehouses to Starbucks cafes, Appalachian coal mines to the sex workers of Portland’s Stripper Strike, interest in organized labor is at a fever pitch not seen since the early 1960s. Inspirational, intersectional, and full of crucial lessons from the past, Fight Like Hell shows what is possible when the working class demands the dignity it has always deserved. In this episode host Michael Shields and Kim Kelly talk about how a heavy metal writer and editor became a tireless advocate for the working class. They touch on a bevy of the stories told in Fight Like Hell, from early 1800’s washwoman and garment workers to the prison labor unions of today. They converse about how Covid-19 affected the worker’s right movement, the Amazon Union battles, and so much more.

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