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Jingle Bells, Something Smells, COVID in the Air

Oh what fun, it is to work, with respirators you must wear…

It’s that time of year — the time to NOT brave the contaminated crowds and get that holiday shopping done. And the helpful staff here at Confined Space world headquarters are at your service with suggestions for your reading pleasure. Most of these I’ve read and will provide a short review. I always intend to do longer reviews, but the pace of life never slows here at Confined Space.

And if you can’t find someone to buy these for, buy them for yourself, wrap them up, and stick them under the tree (or menorah) with a card from Santa (or Hanaklaus) or whatever. (It always worked for me.)

All of these holiday selections are available on line, and I’ve linked them all to Powell’s Books in beautiful downtown Portland, Oregon. Last I checked, Powell’s is one of the only bookstores in the country that is unionized (ILWU Local 5.) And if that doesn’t make it worthwhile to shop there, you may also be interested in the fact that I get a tiny rebate from everything anyone buys through the link on my blog.

So click on the links provided, or check out my more expanded list of books here, or and if you want to shop for books not on my lists, scroll down the right-hand column and click on the Powell’s link and buy whatever the hell you want.

Finally, please feel free to use the comments below if you see any books I missed

OK, let’s get started.

Living and Dying in the American Workplace

Some recent books that talk about the hazards that workers face — in the past and in the present.

Soul Full of Coal Dust: The True Story of an Epic Battle for Justice

A gripping story by award-winning investigative journalist Chris Hamby about how the coal industry, backed by their stable of the best attorneys and “expert” doctors money can buy, cheated thousands of suffering miners out of their Black Lung compensation benefits. You don’t know whether to cry at the tragedy or feel gratified by the dedication of those who spent their careers fighting for the miners.  “Hamby uncovers the terrifying resurgence of black lung disease in Appalachia, its Big Coal cover-up, and the resilient mining communities who refuse to back down”

The Triumph of Doubt: Dark Money and the Science of Deception

Dr. David Michaels. In this easily readable follow-up to his first excellent book, Doubt is Their Product, Michaels describes campaigns by chemical companies and the Republican party corrupt science to sow doubt in the science behind regulations that protect workers, citizens and communities from health and safety hazards. “The Triumph of Doubt traces the ascendance of science-for-hire in American life and government, from its origins in the tobacco industry in the 1950s to its current manifestations across government, public policy, and even professional sports. ”

Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor

Former New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse describes the rise and fall of American labor and how the labor movement made America a fairer, more democratic country.  Explores how workers are trying to take that power back. “A valuable resource both for those looking to learn about American labor history and for those looking to learn from it. Through case studies of pivotal workers’ rights campaigns and intimate portraits of the people who waged them, Greenhouse shows the trajectory of the labor movement from its heyday to the present day and gleans much-needed inspiration for its future. An engaging, informative, and ultimately hopeful read.”

Code White: Sounding the Alarm on Violence Against Health Care.

Code White: Sounding the Alarm on Violence against Health Care Workers, This short account by Canadian health and safety experts and advocates Margaret M. Keith and James T. Brophy describes the root causes and possible solutions to violent assaults against health care workers in Canada. Even though most of the troubling stories in this book take place in Canada, the problems and tragedies are just as relevant for American advocates.

On the Job The Untold Story of Americas Work Centers & the New Fight for Wages Dignity & Health

Health and Safety experts and activists Celeste Monforton and Jane M. Von Bergen tell 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.”

Oldies but Goodies

Some of these may be older and harder to find, but they’re essential to understanding the history and current struggles for occupational safety and health in this country.

Doubt is Their Product

This modern day classic by former OSHA head Dr. David Michaels, describes the process and history of “mercenary science” in this country: science for sale to the highest bidder. We already saw this in the 1920’s and 1930’s with the Radium Girls above, but we’re continuing to see its effects as the Trump administration bases environmental policy on “experts” who have been selling science for decades, even attempting to install many of them in high-level government jobs at EPA and the Department of Agriculture. Although it was published ten years ago, it has never been more relevant than today.  Full Disclosure: I was David’s deputy at OSHA for almost 8 years and before that I reviewed the book when it came out. You can read that review here.

The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor: The Life and Times of Tony Mazzocchi

This book by Les Leopold is a must read, not only to understand the growth of the workplace safety and health movement in this country, but to learn about what of 20th century’s America’s most dynamic labor, environmental and workplace safety leaders. Talk to any health and safety activist of my age or thereabouts, and you’ll hear stories about how their careers and lives were inspired and launched by listening to and working with Tony Mazzocchi. In fact, just holding it in my hands right now, I think I’ll read it again.

Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution

This is a book mostly about the history of lead poisoning and the hazards of vinyl chloride and other chemicals in this country, and how chemical manufacturers knew about the dangers of their product but covered up the truth for decades, sentencing countless numbers of children and workers to lifetimes of brain damage, disability and early death.  Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner are historians and this fascinating book is meticulously documented with internal company correspondence, memos and minutes of meetings of both the lead and chemical industry trade associations — in fact so well documented that even after it was first published in 2002, the vinyl chloride industry spent years attacking and attempting to discredit their work. You can read more about that battle here and here.

The Jungle

What more can I say? This classic novel by Upton Sinclair, first published in 1906, must be read and re-read every few years.  It’s a story of immigrant workers, laboring in Chicago’s slaughterhouses in the early 20th century.  Sinclair wrote it as a story about workers and the working conditions they were forced to endure, but it later birthed the food safety movement in this country. As Sinclair later said,  ‘I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.”  And in Donald Trump’s America, over one-hundred years later, Sinclair’s vivid descriptions of the working conditions, the plight of immigrant workers and the failure of the general public to understand ring all too familiar.

OK, that should about do it for now.  If you don’t like these, there are additional books on the Resource and Books list. And I’m sure there are other books that belong on this list that I’ve overlooked. If you can think of any, make use of the “comments” section down below.

Buy these books and read them now. Pretty soon we’ll be into the mid-terms and NO READING TIME FOR YOU!!!


8 thoughts on “Confined Space Holiday Book Shopping List. Shop here!!”
  1. Hi! What do you think about the book “Exposure” by Robert Bilott? I recently read it and was riveted by the story. I’d love to hear your perspective.

  2. How about “On the Job, the Untold Story of Worker Centers and the New Fight for Wages, Dignity and Health” Monforton/Bergen?

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