Labor Under Fire

A History of the AFL-CIO since 1979

By Timothy J. Minchin

432 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 25 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6154-4
    Published: August 2020
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3298-8
    Published: May 2017
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-3299-5
    Published: March 2017
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5395-0
    Published: March 2017

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From the Reagan years to the present, the labor movement has faced a profoundly hostile climate. As America’s largest labor federation, the AFL-CIO was forced to reckon with severe political and economic headwinds. Yet the AFL-CIO survived, consistently fighting for programs that benefited millions of Americans, including social security, unemployment insurance, the minimum wage, and universal health care. With a membership of more than 13 million, it was also able to launch the largest labor march in American history--1981’s Solidarity Day--and to play an important role in politics.

In a history that spans from 1979 to the present, Timothy J. Minchin tells a sweeping, national story of how the AFL-CIO sustained itself and remained a significant voice in spite of its powerful enemies and internal constraints. Full of details, characters, and never-before-told stories drawn from unexamined, restricted, and untapped archives, as well as interviews with crucial figures involved with the organization, this book tells the definitive history of the modern AFL-CIO.

About the Author

Timothy J. Minchin is professor of North American history at La Trobe University.
For more information about Timothy J. Minchin, visit the Author Page.


"Deeply sourced and written in a favorable tone, Minchin's book tells the disturbing history of labor under fire and in steep decline. Useful to labor historians and anyone wondering where the American labor movement went."--Library Journal

“A textured narrative that puts nuance, personality, and even happenstance back into the often schematically told story of labor’s late twentieth-century travail.”--The Michigan Historical Review

“A useful launching point for scholars hoping to investigate these issues further.”--The Journal of Southern History

“Timothy Minchin is one of the most prolific and insightful historians researching U.S. labor in the era since World War II. His books have helped illuminate the darker corners of labor’s story neglected by his contemporaries in the field. In Labor Under Fire, Minchin does it again, bringing shrewd judgment to bear as he frames organized labor's recent history as a tale of struggle, resiliency, and hope.”--Joseph A. McCartin, Georgetown University

“Filling a notable absence of scholarship on the past three decades of one of the largest labor federations in the world, Timothy Minchin employs extensive oral history interviews to document internal debates and shifts in views by labor leaders and organizers in the AFL-CIO since 1979. He also documents the relationships between the AFL-CIO and the White House during six administrations, drawing on extensive research in presidential archives and newspapers. This is an impressive study of an important and neglected topic, and promises to make a significant impact on the study of labor and politics in the United States.”--William P. Jones, University of Minnesota