Jamie McCallum at Harvard Book Store


How the Pandemic Transformed
the Long Fight for Worker Justice

in conversation with DANIEL SCHNEIDER


November 29, 2022
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes JAMIE MCCALLUM, associate professor of sociology at Middlebury College, for a discussion of Essential: How the Pandemic Transformed the Long Fight for Worker Justice. He will be joined in conversation by DANIEL SCHNEIDER, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and Professor of Sociology at Harvard University.

A Return to In-Person Events

Harvard Book Store is excited to be back to in-person programming. To ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in attendance, the following Covid-19 safety protocols will be in place at all of our Harvard Book Store events until further notice:

  • Face coverings are required of all staff and attendees when inside the store. Masks must snugly cover nose and mouth.

About Essential

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, essential workers lashed out against low wages, long hours, and safety risks, attracting a level of support unseen in decades. This explosion of labor unrest seemed sudden to many. But Essential reveals that American workers had simmered in discontent long before their anger boiled over.  

Decades of austerity, sociologist Jamie K. McCallum shows, have left frontline workers vulnerable to employer abuse, lacking government protections, and increasingly furious. Through firsthand research conducted as the pandemic unfolded, McCallum traces the evolution of workers’ militancy, showing how their struggles for safer workplaces, better pay and health care, and the right to unionize have benefitted all Americans and spurred a radical new phase of the labor movement. This is essential reading for understanding the past, present, and future of the working class. 

Praise for Essential

Essential shows how we, essential workers, were sacrificed during the pandemic—how we were told we were essential but not given workplace protections, how we had to choose between our jobs and keeping our families safe from the virus. Essential catalogs the increase in worker militancy during the pandemic, especially by Black and Brown workers who bore the brunt of the virus, police violence, and economic injustice. This book shows us without a doubt that labor struggles are racial justice struggles. Most importantly, Essential is a call to action: we need increased workplace militancy to challenge capitalism. As workers, our labor—and our ability to withhold it—is our power.” ―Chris Smalls, president and founder, Amazon Labor Union

“Why the recent surges in union popularity and new organizing all across America? What stake do the rest of us have in these brave workers’ success? Jamie McCallum explains how we reached this moment and what the future could hold in an invigorating, urgent book that is, to borrow its title, essential reading.” ―Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains

“By combining rich storytelling from the front lines of the pandemic and a deep historical lens, Essential brings to life a critical reality: Capitalism is quite literally killing us, and only through worker solidarity across our economy can we protect ourselves and advance our future.” ―Sara Nelson, International President, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO

Daniel Schneider
Daniel Schneider

Daniel Schneider

Daniel Schneider is the Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and Professor of Sociology at Harvard University. Professor Schneider’s research focuses on precarious work, social demography, and inequality.

Jamie McCallum
Jamie McCallum

Jamie McCallum

Jamie McCallum is associate professor of sociology at Middlebury College. His third book, Essential: How the Pandemic Transformed the Long Struggle for Worker Justice, will be published mid-November by Basic Books. His work has been featured in the New York Times, New Yorker, Washington Post, Jacobin, Dissent, as well as many scholarly journals. He’s also an elected school board representative in Vermont and a volunteer firefighter.

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

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