The Lexicon of Labor

More Than 500 Key Terms, Biographical Sketches, and Historical Insights Concerning Labor in America

A thoroughly updated edition of the clever, fun-to-read compilation of union language and lore

“For close to two centuries, we in the American labor movement have spoken our own language. It is a rich idiom, laden with humor and barbs, heady with history. . . . Problem is, fewer and fewer of us speak it, and even fewer on the outside understand it or know how it came about.” —from the prefatory note to The Lexicon of Labor

First published in 1998, The Lexicon of Labor found a large and appreciative following among readers who were grateful to have the vibrant, powerful language of the labor movement captured in a lively single volume. This long-awaited revised and updated edition includes dozens of new terms and developments that will introduce a new generation to the labor lexicon, even as labor’s strength grows in the Obama era.

From Frederick Douglass to César Chavez, from the Haymarket Riots in 1886 to the Change to Win federation formed in 2005, this classic labor lexicon provides concise, enlightening sketches of over five hundred key places, people, and events in American labor history. A practical resource for students and journalists, The Lexicon of Labor is as entertaining for longtime union members seeking to get reacquainted with the traditions of the movement as it is for newcomers wishing to discover the unique language and history of unionism.

The Lexicon of Labor also includes explanations of major legislative acts, definitions of key legal terminology, and complete listings of all the member unions of the AFL-CIO and independent unions in the United States. It is the perfect introduction to the history of labor in America.


“A critical resource, not just as a guide to the U.S. labor movement’s often-hidden past, but as a spotlight on labor’s living history. ”
—Janine Jackson, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting
“Informative and engaging.”
“Fills a longstanding void . . . by far the largest compilation of definitions of words and phrases used in the specialized vocabulary of unionists.”
Northwest Labor Press
“Worth reading aloud while walking the picket line.”
The Seattle Times
“A handy reference for individuals who want an introduction to U.S. labor terminology and labor history.”
Library Journal

Goodreads Reviews