Kim Kelly (journalist)

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Kim Kelly is an journalist and writer, best known for her coverage of labor issues and heavy metal music. She is the author of Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor (2022).


  • The climate crisis is the greatest threat facing humanity. Given the number of imperialistic wars, white supremacist terrorist attacks, mass extinctions, concentration camps, genocides, and brutal government repression with which we as a species are currently occupying ourselves, that is truly saying something...Right now, our future is in flames, and some of those politicians are standing on the hose.
    • “Climate Disaster Is a Labor Issue: Here's Why” in No Planet B: A Teen Vogue Guide to the Climate Crisis (2019)

Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor (2022)

  • he (my father) instilled in me the unshakable idea that the union was a good thing to have and that when your boss was doing you wrong, you could count on the union to have your back. Every worker deserves to feel that way (p. xxiv)
  • So many of these workers newly recognized as "essential" toiled in industries that lack labor protections, were not and still have not been paid a livable wage, still cannot access affordable health care, and are still disenfranchised by a deeply flawed system that places people of color and undocumented workers at increased risk, whether there's a pandemic raging or not. People incarcerated in jails and prisons were forced to manufacture masks, gowns, and hand sanitizer for use outside the walls, even as the virus turned these grim facilities into death traps, and many there have had to dig graves for those who were lost to its grip. Those in the medical field-doctors, nurses, hospital technicians, hospital janitors and laundry workers, funeral home owners and morticians-were placed in extreme danger by personal protective equipment shortages. The entire affair exposed the rotten, hazardous conditions that have been allowed to fester thanks to capitalist cruelty and federal malfeasance, and by hitting the streets and raising the alarm, workers are now fighting back. (p. xxvi)
  • The United States' labor laws are outdated, the National Labor Relations Board is still a husk of itself, understaffed and weakened after decades of neglect-and yet, there is a great and mighty wave of organizing happening regardless. (p. xxvii)
  • Every worker today stands on the shoulders of giants, people you will meet here like Lucy Parsons, Cesar Chavez, Bayard Rustin, Eugene V. Debs, and Walter Reuther. But others remain unfamiliar to the average working person, and could have never envisioned the world we're in now. Some things haven't changed; bad bosses and capitalist bloodsuckers continue to do their best to keep boots on our necks and their hands in our wallets.

Vogue Interview (2022)

"Writer Kim Kelly’s New Book, Fight Like Hell, Is a Timely Ode to the Labor Movement", Vogue (April 28, 2022)
  • Earlier on in the pandemic, there was such a contrast between the workers who had to keep going to work even before we had vaccines [and those who didn’t]; they had to keep going out and delivering food or making food or cleaning streets or doing all this essential labor that was momentarily recognized as essential work. We had a hot minute where some people got a couple extra dollars that they badly needed and some people got cheered on from the window—all that weird appreciation theater. And then all that went away, and the workers still had to keep going to work. I think there’s been that shift in the way a lot of workers see their lives, their labor, the value they are bringing to society and their employers, and what they’re getting back in return—and the math ain’t math-ing there.
  • Unions still exist, and they’re an option, and they’re a great way to build power with your coworkers. On top of all that, we saw and are continuing to see workers at Amazon and Starbucks—these incredibly well-known corporations that I think a lot of people have accepted as being part of the fabric of their daily lives—go up against the bosses and say, “We need more from you, because you are literally hanging out in space while we’re trying to pay our rent.”
  • I love telling people about the time when a group of disabled activists got tired of waiting for the government to actually enact regulations that were part of the 1977 Rehabilitation Act and occupied a bunch of federal buildings around the country.
  • None of us is an island, and every labor story is also a disability story, a queer story, a Black story, a women’s story. We’re all in this together because ultimately everyone either is a worker or was a worker or will be a worker at some point in their life. There have been efforts over the decades and centuries to separate workers on the basis of race, gender, nationality, or ability, and that’s always been bullshit. It’s just a boss’s tactic to keep us apart because when we come together, we’re strong.
  • Sex workers have always been a vital part of the labor movement and are often left out of the conversation just because of what their job is or where they came from or where they’re living. There’s so much that organized labor can learn from sex-worker organizers because they’ve had to deal with all the same bullshit that any other worker deals with—horrible wages, bad bosses, unsafe working conditions, labor laws that don’t work for them—on top of the stigma and the whore phobia and ignorance and prejudice around their work. If we’re going to stand up for workers and cover workers’ stories and say, “We care about workers,” we need to care about all workers. An injury to one needs to be an injury to all.
  • (How are you feeling about the future of the labor movement?) I am so stoked, man. I am so proud of us, and I’m so certain that we’re going to win. It’s going to take struggle and time, and things aren’t where they should be yet, but they used to be way worse. We’re in a position where more people are interested in unions and organizing and taking their power back. That is nothing if not its own revolution.

Quotes about Kim Kelly

  • Kim Kelly has written the most important book on labor published in a generation
  • No one is more passionate about workers' struggles than Kim Kelly, and it shows.
  • Kim Kelly vibrantly brings struggles and sacrifices of badass working-classs heroes to life and we need to hear these voices now more than ever
  • From the moment I read Kim's work the first time, I knew Mother Jones would have loved her...By the time Kim made waves in the labor movement with her piece "Everything You Need to Know about General Strikes," I was hooked...She has a writer's intellectual curiosity and a reporter's nose for the truth, and it shows in this book...While there are many who wish we would forget, Kim's thrilling and incisive look at our history reminds us of a fundamental truth: the labor movement belongs to all of us.
  • Fight Like Hell establishes Kim Kelly as a true champion for the working class.
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