In "Holding the Line", author Barbara Kingsolver ("The Poisonwood Bible", "Animal Dreams") offers us an account of the strike at the 1983 Morenci Copper Mine in Arizona. Kingsolver was working as a reporter at the time and spent quite a bit of time with the women involved in the strike. She gives the reader a different perspective on the strike; and on strikes in general. "Holding the Line" focuses on the women involved in the strike and how the strike affected them, and also just how much influence they held during the strike. Kingsolver admits her bias early on in the preface, so the reader knows from the start that the author personally sides with the strikers against the company, Phelps Dodge.

After spending decades slowing winning better pay, better working conditions and opportunities for women and minorities, the union works are the Morenci Copper Mine are dealt a new blow and a new challenge: At the end of their current contract, Phelps Dodge claims that they are losing money and the new contract the offer is with reduced wages and the elimination of a Cost of Living Expense for its workers. The way the workers have traditionally won concessions and what should be considered "human rights" (here I show my bias) is through a strike. The union workers walked off the job at the end of their contract and thus began an 18 month standoff between the workers and the giant Phelps Dodge, which almost immediately began bringing in scab labor to try to break the strike and break the union.

In a culture where women have traditionally been at home, "barefoot in the kitchen", the women in Morenci and the other nearby mining towns began to get involved. At first it was just to assist their husbands, but as the strike continued and the police and the National Guard are called in and start abusing their power, the women become a true force. They became the glue that held the strike together, and in the process found a sense of empowerment that they never would have discovered otherwise. Kingsolver showed how this strike helped to better shape the community and brought the women together. She also shows, through the eyes and stories of these women, exactly what Phelps Dodge and the "authorities" were doing, and it wasn't good.

"Holding the Line" is a powerful book with a stunning story. Barbara Kingsolver took what I thought was going to be a dry subject and brought it to life. The reader is able to get a sense of the outrage and frustration and triumphs of these women as Phelps Dodge tries to grind their lives into the dust and break the back of the union. But, the women became the backbone of the local union, and they were unbreakable. To say that this book is a story of true triumph in the face of a corporate giant would be to mischaracterize it, however, because that isn't what this story is and it isn't what the end result happened to be. But, it is a story that I had never heard and one that deserved to be told.