On the Job

The Untold Story of Worker Centers and the New Fight for Wages, Dignity, and Health

The inspiring story of worker centers that are cropping up across the country and transforming the labor movement

“The real story is that while traditional labor unions have declined in membership, labor organizing is alive. It’s inspiring and succeeding. Workers in low-wage and other precarious work arrangements are building and growing worker support organizations in their communities.” —from the introduction

For over 60 million people, work in America has been a story of declining wages, insecurity, and unsafe conditions, especially amid the coronavirus epidemic. This new and troubling reality has galvanized media and policymakers, but all the while a different and little-known story of rebirth and struggle has percolated just below the surface.

On the Job is the first account of a new kind of labor movement, one that is happening locally, quietly, and among our country’s most vulnerable—but essential—workers. Noted public health expert Celeste Monforton and award-winning journalist Jane M. Von Bergen crisscrossed the country, speaking with workers of all backgrounds and uncovering the stories of hundreds of new worker-led organizations (often simply called worker centers) that have successfully achieved higher wages, safer working conditions, and on-the-job dignity for their members.

On the Job describes ordinary people finding their voice and challenging power: from housekeepers in Chicago and Houston; to poultry workers in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and Springdale, Arkansas; and construction workers across the state of Texas. An inspiring book for dark times, On the Job reveals that labor activism is actually alive and growing—and holds the key to a different future for all working people.


“Readers interested in labor politics, labor relations, and related activism, as well as the impact of COVID-19 on labor, will glean much inspiration and insight into how workers have mobilized and advocated for higher wages, safer working conditions, and respect and dignity, even during the midst of a global pandemic.”
“The authors lucidly explain the issues facing low-wage workers, and vividly sketch the activists behind these campaigns. This timely and well-documented account offers hope for the future of the American labor movement.”
Publishers Weekly
“These are not your parents’ labor unions—an excellent introduction to a burgeoning and necessary movement.”
Kirkus Reviews

News and Reviews


Read an op-ed by the authors that reflects on the 110th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and the continued fight to protect workers from dangerous workplaces.

Goodreads Reviews