A Celebration of Work


A Celebration of Work

241 pages
Illus., maps


March 1996


$12.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

“Nothing is better for a person than to have an opportunity to do meaningful work," says Norman Best in this memoir detailing his forty-eight years as a blue-collar worker. During those years, he built and maintained highways and bridges in Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and Montana, and served stints as a machinist in the San Francisco shipyards and as business agent for Local 86 of the International Association of Machinists.

In A Celebration of Work he shows how the construction of rural roads, railroad bridges, and modern superhighways depended on the expertise of skilled workers who cared deeply about quality.

Yet the work of private contractors, interested solely in profit, was often careless and dangerous. Best's concern for the worker led him to the Communist Party in the 1930s, but, disillusioned with the party's leadership, he left it in 1946.

His philosophy of economic democracy, rooted in Jeffersonian democracy, Marxian socialism, and the Golden Rule, renders his voice unique. Whether Best is describing organizing a union, busting the highway construction contract system, or refusing to cooperate with the FBI, his memoir honors the art of laboring with pride, self-confidence, and dignity.

Author Bio

Norman Best retired in 1972, returned to college, and later taught U. S. labor history at Hampshire College and the University of Massachusetts. He lives in Ellensburg, Washington, with his wife, Catherine. In his introduction, William G. Robbins, a professor of history at Oregon State University at Corvallis, celebrates the passionate yet genial man who has written social history from his own experience. He is the author of Colony and Empire: The Capitalist Transformation of the American West.


"This book is more than just the story of a working man's life of toil, joys and troubles. . . . This is also the memoir of a union activist fighting for industrial democracy, quality craftsmanship and self-actualization through work."—American West

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