Babson recounts Detroit's odyssey from a bulwark of the "open shop" to the nation's foremost "union town." Through words and pictures, Working Detroit documents the events in the city's ongoing struggle to build an industrial society that is both prosperous and humane.
Babson begins his account in 1848 when Detroit has just entered the industrial era. He weaves the broader historical realties, such as Red Scare, World War, and economic depression into his account, tracing the ebb and flow of the working class activity and organization in Detroit - from the rise of the Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor in the 19th century, through the Congress of Industrial Organizations and the sitdown strike of the 1930s, to the civil rights and women's movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The book concludes with an examination of the present day crisis facing the labor movement.