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Democracy and Political Ignorance
As Far as the Eye Could Reach
Grant at Vicksburg
Congress, Presidents, and American Politics
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To Teach
Spying in America
Ojibwa Warrior

From Blackjacks to BriefcasesFrom Blackjacks to Briefcases

A History of Commercialized Strikebreaking and Unionbusting in the United States

Robert Michael Smith

Narrated by Kenneth Lee

Available from Audible

Book published by Ohio University Press

From the beginning of the Industrial Age and continuing into the twenty-first century, companies faced with militant workers and organizers have often turned to agencies that specialized in ending strikes and breaking unions. Although their secretive nature has made it difficult to fully explore the history of this industry, From Blackjacks to Briefcases does just that.

By digging through subpoenaed documents of strike-bound companies, their mercenaries, and the testimony of executive officers and rank-and-file strikebreakers, Robert Smith examines the inner workings of the antiunion industry. In a clear and lively style, he brings to life the violent armed guards employed on the picket line or in the coal camps; the ruffians who filled the armies marshaled by the “King of the Strikebreakers,” Pearl Bergoff; the labor spies who wrecked countless unions; and, after the Wagner Act, those who manipulated national labor law to serve their clients.

In From Blackjacks to Briefcases, Smith follows the history of this ongoing struggle and tells a compelling story that parallels the history of the United States over the last century and a half.

Robert Michael Smith is the author of a number of articles on labor relations and the progressive movement. He is a professor of history at Sinclair Community College, Dayton, Ohio.


“This book is as interesting as the title promises. It is an excellent little volume, succinct and well-researched. The main thesis of the book is compellingly laid out, bringing readers easily to share the author's contention that union-busting today is much the same as it was in 1880.”

Labor Studies Journal Online

“This work will become the convenient handbook for the distasteful but necessary look at the rearguard tactics that still too often shape American labor-management relations.”

—Scott Molloy, Labor Research Center, University of Rhode Island

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