The Era Was Lost

The Rise and Fall of New York City’s Rank-and-File Rebels

By Glenn Dyer

The Era Was Lost

Approx. 248 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-8206-8
    Published: October 2024
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-8205-1
    Published: October 2024

Justice, Power, and Politics

Paperback Available October 2024, but pre-order your copy today!

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An exciting yet relatively unknown episode in American labor history took place in New York City between 1965 and 1975. Rank-and-file members of numerous unions caught a "strike fever" as they challenged the entrenched power of some of the country's most powerful politicians, employers, and union leaders in a wave contract rejections, wildcat strikes, and electoral campaigns.

Workers in unions across New York wanted more than better contracts: they contested control of the work process, racism on the job, and workers' place in America's socioeconomic hierarchy while implicitly and explicitly demanding greater democratic control of their representative organizations and lives. Some initial challenges were effective and succeeded in delivering better contracts and unseating undemocratic leaders. However, those early successes were short-lived. Glenn Dyer traces the way workers were met with employer recalcitrance and union attacks that proved too powerful to organize against. In the face of this resistance, workers retreated into a survivalist attitude of accommodation and resignation, contributing to the decline of social democratic New York and working-class power in the city. Ultimately, as Dyer argues, the failures of the rank-and-file organizing efforts in New York City, which was the biggest center of organized labor in the country, shows how stunted workers' aspirations and numerous defeats not only uprooted the foundations of New York's uniquely social democratic polity but also ushered in a national era of increased working-class subservience that has resonance today.

About the Author

Glenn Dyer is limited term assistant professor of history and philosophy at Kennesaw State University.
For more information about Glenn Dyer, visit the Author Page.


"With expansive research and fresh insights, this impressive first look at rank-and-file worker militancy in New York City during this period substantially furthers the field of labor studies and working-class history."—Robert Ovetz, author of We the Elites: Why the US Constitution Serves the Few

"A superb social and labor history. Charting the strike surge that swept New York City in the decade prior to the fiscal crisis of 1975, Dyer illuminates this central aspect of the city's life."—Kim Phillips-Fein, author of Fear City: New York's Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics