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Holding Court: Annelise Orleck

Holding Court is an interview series that features the authors of the new books on display in the King Arthur Flour café in Baker-Berry Library.

In this week's edition, we talk with Annelise Orleck, a historian of labor movements, and author of "We Are All Fast-Food Workers Now": The Global Uprising Against Poverty Wages (Beacon Press, 2018).  In this book, Orleck interviews worker-activists in many US cities and countries around the world, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Mexico, South Africa, and the Philippines.  Seven Days has highlighted the book as among the best new books by Vermont authors, and Ms. Magazine included it in its list of 10 Feminist Books to Read This Spring.

What is your book about?

This book traces the globalization of our world economy and the 21st century global uprising against poverty wages led by low-wage workers, a great many of them women of color. Using photos and 140 interviews, this book tells the story, whenever possible, through workers' eyes and workers' voices.

Where do you get your ideas?

On the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in 2011, Bangladeshi garment worker Kalpona Akter said, "In Bangladesh it's not 2011, it's 1911." I have found that to be true all over the world, in terms of workplace safety conditions, what wages will be, and the rights of workers to unionize. This book traces a movement by workers to regain rights they first fought for and won more than one hundred years ago.

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

This project involved global travel and interviewing, archival research, and digital online research. I could not live without face-to-face and Skype interviews.

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

I think it will include paper as it does now, material objects, and global online links to digitized resources.

What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

Enjoy your research and writing. Study what moves you. If you are moved and are having fun as you write, readers will have fun and be moved by your writing.

And finally, what do you read for fun?

I read many different kinds of novels, the New Yorker, Salon and the Guardian.

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