The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor
The Life and Times of Tony Mazzocchi
A CIA-connected labor union, an assassination attempt, a mysterious car crash, listening devices, and stolen documents–everything you’d expect from the latest thriller. Yet, this was the reality of Tony Mazzocchi, the Rachel Carson of the U.S. workplace; a dynamic labor leader whose legacy lives on in today’s workplaces and ongoing alliances between labor activists and environmentalists, and those who believe in the promise of America.
In The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor: The Life and Times of Tony Mazzocchi, author and labor expert Les Leopold recounts the life of the late Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union leader. Mazzocchi’s struggle to address the unconscionable toxic exposure of tens of thousands of workers led to the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and included work alongside nuclear whistleblower Karen Silkwood. His noble, high-profile efforts forever changed working conditions in American industry–and made him enemy number one to a powerful few.
As early as the 1950s, when the term “environment” was nowhere on the political radar, Mazzocchi learned about nuclear fallout and began integrating environmental concerns into his critique of capitalism and his union work. An early believer in global warming, he believed that the struggle of capital against nature was the irreconcilable contradiction that would force systemic change.
Mazzocchi’s story of non-stop activism parallels the rise and fall of industrial unionism. From his roots in a pro-FDR, immigrant family in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, through McCarthyism, the Sixties, and the surge of the environmental movement, Mazzocchi took on Corporate America, the labor establishment and a complacent Democratic Party.
This profound biography should be required reading for those who believe in taking risks and making the world a better place. While Mazzocchi’s story is so full of peril and deception that it seems almost a work of fiction, Leopold proves that the most provocative and lasting stories in life are those of real people.
Reviews and Praise
Leopold (cofounder & director, Labor Inst. & Public Health Inst.) tells the story of radical unionist Tony Mazzocchi (1926-2002), who grew up in left-wing New York. In 1953, Mazzocchi, a World War II veteran, followed his employer, Helena Rubinstein, from New York City to Long Island and rebuilt his union, Local 149, United Gas, Coke and Chemical Workers, which became the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW) International Union in 1955. The author shows how Mazzocchi thus strengthened America's labor movement, not to mention the local Democratic Party, mixing radical politics with union fights for better wages and better work conditions. The result: a militant and popular union local. Mazzocchi used his national position at OCAW to work with scientists and environmentalists to improve workplace safety, environmental laws, and economic equality. His radicalism angered conventional unionists, especially those assisting the CIA abroad. He irritated corporations, and was considered a threat to and by the FBI. Leopold's admiring biography shows Mazzocchi as that rare radical who escaped the Red Scare and continued through old age to weave together leftist politics and strong unionism with the goal of improving life for all Americans. Highly recommended for medium to large public libraries and all academic libraries.
More Reviews and Praise
Publishers Weekly, starred review-
A formidable labor organizer and longtime leader of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union, Mazzocchi (1926-2002), had an exceptional career that belies much received wisdom about American labor after WWII. In prose that unabashedly reflects the upbeat, streetwise world view of its subject, Mazzocchi's friend and associate Leopold shows how Mazzocchi's earliest experiences--from a Bensonhurst childhood among a politically engaged Italian-American working-class family, to underage entry into WWII as an army grunt--informed his shrewd strategies for a militant labor agenda from the 1950s onward. That agenda embraced civil rights, anti-nuclear testing, antiwar and environmental causes, often years ahead of the liberal mainstream, while deftly negotiating such obstacles as employer antagonism, Cold War red-baiting, mob racketeering, union corruption and government intrigue. Balancing a wealth of firsthand interviews with astute judgments, Leopold delivers a vivid picture of Mazzocchi as a practical visionary whose milestones include passage of 1970's Occupational Safety and Health Act. Those undeterred by a sometimes earthy and partisan tone will find a wealth of practical lessons as well as an excellent introduction to American left and labor history.
"The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor crackles with life--and it's hard to imagine a life better spent than Tony Mazzocchi's. He was a friend and an inspiration to me, as he will be to anyone who reads this riveting biography."--Barbara Ehrenreich, author, Nickel and Dimed
"Les Leopold has vividly brought to life an extraordinary man--an incorruptible fighter for the rights of labor--an historic figure who should never be forgotten. Whether leading the charge for the Occupational Safety and Health Act, protecting workers from toxic exposures, traveling the country to argue for health insurance, testifying before Congress, or inspiring a generation of student activists, Mazzocchi's fiery passion for social and economic justice was revealed in every action he took. And in Leopold he has found an equally passionate and dedicated biographer. This is an important work in the annals of labor history."--Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize Winning historian
"Tony Mazzocchi is one of the unsung, unnoticed heroes of the American working class, and Les Leopold's biography gives us the gift of his extraordinary life--from the battlefields of World War II to the present-day struggle for workers' rights. In that struggle, Tony Mazzocchi was brilliant, bold, imaginative, and fearless. He loved life, food, fun, and children, and I believe his story can inspire a new generation of activists to work for peace and economic justice."--Howard Zinn, author, A People's History of the United States
"Tony Mazzocchi expressed the highest purposes of the labor movement. He constantly reminded us why we needed to build a broad social movement to bring justice and equality to our society--a movement that could unite unions, environmentalists, and social justice organizations in the global struggle to tame corporate power. His commitment to single-payer health care and free higher education for all continues to inspire our work today. We hope his story will help fuel a new generation of movement activists."--Richard Trumka, Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO
"Tony Mazzocchi was one of the most visionary trade unionist in America. He wrote the book on building alliances between workers and environmentalists."--Leo Gerard, President of the United Steelworkers of America
"Tony Mazzocchi formed my understanding of the fundamental relationship between work and our environment. He always reminded me, 'Carl, companies don't eliminate jobs because of environmental standards. They fight environmental standards so they can degrade and eliminate jobs. It's a skilled, motivated work-force they want to get away from, not clean air and clean water. Workers are the environment's first line of defense.'"--Carl Pope, Executive Director, Sierra Club
"The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor: The Life and Times of Tony Mazzocchi by Les Leopold, (Chelsea Green) is the story of whom I consider to be the greatest labor leader of our generation. It was Mazzocchi who connected the labor movement with environmental group and scientists specializing in occupational diseases, with a broad humane agenda for working people so that they had a decent living standard and plenty of time for other pursuits. This World War II combat veteran probably traveled more miles, spoke with more blue collar workers and championed "just health care" more than any other American before his passing from cancer in 2002."--Ralph Nader
About The Author
|Book Art:||8 pages of black and white photos|
|Size:||6 x 9 inch|
|Publisher:||Chelsea Green Publishing|
|Pub. Date:||November 14, 2007|
Available In/Retail PricePaperback, 540 pages, $39.95
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