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Book Talk: Jon Melrod's Fighting Times: Organizing on the Front Lines of the Class War

Book cover for Fighting Times by Jon Melrod

Please join the LHRC for another in our ongoing series of remote-only labor history book talks. Jon Melrod will talk about his book Fighting Times: Organizing on the Front Lines of the Class War. Deeply personal and astutely political, his memoir recounts his thirteen-year journey to harness working class militancy and jump start a revolution on the shop floor of the American Motors auto company in Wisconsin.

Please register here.

Melrod’s book recounts how he faced termination, dodged the FBI, outwitted collaborators in the UAW, and became the central figure in a multi-year, surreptitiously funded and orchestrated defamation lawsuit by American Motors against the rank-and-file shop newsletter Fighting Times, as he strives to build a class-conscious workers’ movement from the bottom up.

A radical to the core, Melrod was a key part of a campus insurrection at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He left school for the factory in 1972, hired along with hundreds of other youthful job seekers onto the mind-numbing auto assembly line. The book paints a portrait of these rebellious and alienated young hires, many of whom were Black Vietnam vets returning from war with little faith in the system and little tolerance for authority.

Containing dozens of archival photographs, Fighting Times captures the journey of a militant anti-racist revolutionary who rose through the ranks of his UAW local without compromising his politics or his dedication to building a class-conscious workers’ movement.

Melrod's experiences will inspire and arm new generations of labor militants and organizers with the skills and attitude to challenge the odds and fight the egregious abuses of the exploitative capitalist system.

Born into the political and cultural quiescence of the 1950’s, Jon Melrod grew up in segregated Washington D.C. Active in the student movement that opposed the Vietnam War and a supporter of Black liberation, Jon embraced the ideology that the working class held the power to radically transform society. As an auto worker, he rose through the union ranks to a top leadership position in UAW Local 72. Eventually graduating cum laude from Hastings College of the Law, he and his law firm represented political refugees and tackled police violence. Today, he and his wife, Filipina actress and human rights activist Maria Isabel Lopez, work on Philippine human rights issues like indigenous land rights and the rights of political prisoners.