David Bates's The Ordeal of the Jungle is a very fine book, a history of labor and race that speaks to our own moment. In it Bates focuses on the efforts of the Chicago Federation of Labor (CFL) to cultivate a meaningful, powerful interracial union movement in Chicago's meatpacking and steel industries between 1916 and 1922. It is a valuable contribution to the history of Chicago and labor history generally, and offers important cautionary lessons on taking a class-reductionist approach to the struggle of working people of differing racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Bates begins The Ordeal of the Jungle with an examination of a series of strikes across a range of Chicago's workplaces, which sowed “the seeds of racial discord that poisoned” subsequent CFL campaigns (10). In 1903, Black and white restaurant workers walked off the job after one of the city's restaurant groups fired its Black unionized employees and...

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