Stewart Acuff

Apr 27

Comments and Praise for Stewart and PBTYA

Playing Bigger Than You Are: A Life in Organizing by Mr. Stewart Acuff is as much a delightful memoir as an informative lecture on the necessity for solidarity within labor. Acuff’s prose traverses his work in organizing while carrying the reader along shot-gun in a road trip full of adventures across and beyond the country. Each chapter is a stop full of narrative and wisdom that inspires advocacy and urgency for change.
Our attention is brought to the growing disparity between the worker and the financial elite, and Acuff goes on to demonstrate that through labor organizing we can fight poverty and bring the waning spirit back to middle class America. It is though these mobilizing efforts that the labor movement will restore dignity and empower more workers by giving them a collective voice to speak out against injustices. We must not be afraid to question authority as Acuff reminds us, “that rich and powerful often create laws to keep themselves in place as society’s elite”; therefore, labor’s collective action must be in place to serve as the checks and balances to the rich and powerful.
How do we mobilize people? Playing Bigger Than You Are: A Life in Organizing teaches us that we do so by listening to the hearts of working class Americans. Successful organizers must understand active listening and empathy as the tools that engage the non-union member. A chance for dignity in the workplace will encourage others to join the union. Acuff puts it simply when he says organizing is about building power! His years of experience and dexterity with words make Playing Bigger Than You Are: A Life in Organizing both enjoyable and engaging to read.
“Labor Omnia Vincit.”
-Jeff Lang
Stewart Acuff is quite possibly the most important Union and Political advocate for the “common worker” I can conceive of.
-Lori Jo Carter
You have [made a] positive impact on a lot of folks. I am proud to say I am one of them.
Thanks brother,
-John Murphy via FB
Your poems are gifts to the world.
[Acuff is] a strong and steady voice for all workers, as always!
-Vonie Long
Read Stewart Acuff -author-organizer-motivator-great guy-forward thinker.
-Mary Bouffard via Facebook
I love great speakers and it is a awesome bonus when they write great books. If you ever have the opportunity, Google Stewart Acuff and accept his knowledge of history and the experiences in the labor movement he has to share…
-Anita R. Dawson, of the UAW Local 724 – Community Services Committee

Stewart Acuff’s emails are super pleasant & I feel like I learn more labor history every time

@AngeMClarke via Twitter


We met at the People’s Bookstore in Durham when you were over in the UK. It was an immense pleasure to meet you after reading your book the night before, I couldn’t put it down I was so engrossed in your story.

During your talk in Durham you mentioned about organisers in the UK not doing home door knocking like you guys do in the US so I took your advice on board and it has been a great success calling NASUWT members at home whilst on half term holidays. Members have been confident to talk openly about their school issues and indeed become contacts in the school the first rung on the ladder to becoming reps. So thanks again your book signed to me holds pride of place in my book collection.
In Solidarity,

– John Brookes


Got his book. After a free copy of 18 Essential Qualities that Every Organizer Must Have.

– David via Facebook


@stewartacuff Yup, #Solidarity is our key to a much better world. Thanks for all you do. I look forward to reading your new book!

@DenverElle via Twitter


Want some real #labor truth? Real common sense type of solutions? Follow —> @stewartacuff. Spread the word…#1u

@1mermaidgirl via Twitter


Stewart Acuff, friend of Welsh unions and an inspiring union organiser. Love this -‘Dr.King …said…’the moral arc of history is long but bends towards justice’… Acuff says ‘it bends a lot quicker when a lot of us are pulling on it.’

-Mark Turner via FB


[Website Administrator’s note: This is a comment from a relative of the late CJ Bevins, who tragically died during a drilling accident at work in 2011. Stewart wrote a poem commemorating CJ’s life. CLICK HERE to read In Memoriam of CJ Bevins.]

Stewart, there are no words to thank you enough for your beautiful poem, you had me in tears. I wasn’t aware you had written it until a couple of days ago when I was in NY with my daughter helping to introduce a gas/oil worker safety bill with Senator Avella.

Your dedication is amazing, I think there will be a lot of things headed your way as things heat up in the gas industry… I hope you are doing well and bless you for your work!

– Nancy Bevins


If you’re not reading Stewart Acuff regularly, you’re missing out.

– Atom Robinson via Facebook


Spending a week with Stewart was amazing. His voice needs to be heard loud and clear. We are really looking forward to him coming back to [British Columbia] to help us elect the NDP. Thanks Brother!

– Anonymous


Brother Stewart,
I just wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying your book, Playing Bigger Than You Are, and thank you for the free Kindle download. It is truly inspiring me. Also, I would have never known that my Birthday is International Human Rights Day… (which is awesome, and a real reason to celebrate).
I plan to do a full review of Playing Bigger Than You Are on our site:

Another unemployed electrician and I decided to resurrect the Colorado Labor Advocate newspaper (which went under just over a year and a half ago) into this format, in an attempt to get CO Labor back on the same page. I’m pretty sure [we] are trying to play bigger than we are but we are undaunted and determined to make this work, possibly on a much larger scale (when it does catch on.) We believe we’re at an important cross roads, right now, and people are ready for real and meaningful change.
Brother Joe Collins
IBEW Local 113


Stewart Acuff, former AFL-CIO Organizing Director and JWJ leader, has recently published a book on his life experiences as a labor and community organizer. It’s a good quick read. Over the years I’ve found Stewart to be a good critical thinker about the labor movement’s big challenges, and also someone who is not afraid to lead.

– Anonymous


Thank you for taking time to come and speak today at the TUC today I really enjoyed listening to your experiences on your journey. I’m sure I will be able to remember and use some of your  experiences on my journey ahead. You don’t organise as a job it’s a belief.

– Many Thanks Stuart Harrison


Hi Stewart,
I would like you to know that meeting you has had a profound affect on me and the way I view the world and how the concept of organising fits into it. I don’t think that I truly understood that it was so much more than just the unionization of a workplace, but more so the mobilization of mankind against tyranny and injustice. It is as if a switch in my consciousness was waiting to be flipped and my eyes have been opened to the true meaning of the task at hand.

I doubt my life as an organiser will have the affect that yours has had in Atlanta and Sierra Leone, (yes I read your book on the train journey home), but we all have a part to play in the big picture and I will endeavor to play mine. Thank you for the inspiration you have given me, it really was a pleasure to meet you.

In solidarity,
Neil Williams.

Comments and Praise for Playing Bigger Than You Are: A Life in Organizing

5 Star Reviews on Amazon:

Stewart Acuff was the Organizing Director of the national labor federation the AFL-CIO from 2002 to 2008. During that time he was the voice and the heart and the soul of the campaign to reform America’s broken labor laws to favor workers. “Playing Bigger than You Are” tells that story and many more from the life and work of Brother Acuff. I have bought this book for my whole staff and sisters and brothers who aspire to organize. It is a quick but invaluable read!


Peter Olney
Organizing Director of the West Coast Longshore Union (ILWU)


This is an incredible book, and a very quick read!! Even though I am a very slow reader, it is such a page turner, and I finished it in a few hours! Stewart Acuff’s life story is so inspiring. The book outlines his victories and defeats in the labor movement, and proves that a small group of people CAN make a difference and CAN change the world! I highly recommend this book! –SunriseSunset1987 on Amazon


I’ve been a longtime fan of Senator Bernie Sanders, so when I saw that he wrote the forward to the book, I was instantly intrigued. Though I’ve never been a part of the labor movement or a union member, I found Mr. Acuff’s story surprisingly accessible and engaging. In our current time of great economic, social, political, and environmental uncertainty, this is an inspirational story I encourage anyone to read. Mr. Acuff’s passion and determination inspires us all to fight for what we believe in, no matter the odds. –SonomaStars on Amazon


Misc. Reviews:

“Just finished reading Playing Bigger Than You Are: A Life in Organizing and wanted to tell you I loved it. I especially liked finding out how much your faith has informed your activism. Although I was raised in the Jewish faith I became a Christian at the age of 31, in part because of the emphasis Jesus placed on social justice in His teachings. We must work to debunk the myth that Christianity is incompatible with progressive values — it is as much a misconception on the left as it is on the right — when in fact clergy and laity have been on the front lines of nearly every movement for change in our nation’s history.

Thank you for sharing your life story. It was a very inspiring read.”
-Dave Finz


“Talked with labor organizer Stewart Acuff and others last night at a book reading that featured his new book Playing Bigger Than You Are: A Life in Organizing. If you want a quick, riveting read about organizing and social change, this is a great choice. Stories like Stewart‘s and his learnings about the work are key for us to continue to grow our power to win substantial change for the good of people.”

– Mark Schultz, Policy Program Director of The Land Stewardship Program


“I like the lessons you spell out and the examples that accompany them. Organizers need to hear these lessons, especially new organizers. You talked about the important lessons we know are true in order to succeed in organizing. It’s important to have someone like you with your experiences sharing those lessons….”
– Sarah McKenzie, Director, AFL-CIO Organizing Institute


Stewart Acuff’s life story has been packed with organizing ordinary people and moving them to do extraordinary things. Across the country, he has helped working people stand up for themselves, together with their co-workers and their neighbors, for dignity and justice against the rich and powerful.”
– Kenneth Zinn, Research Director, National Nurses United


Stewart does a fine job of spreading the gospel about our “righteous” work, as he calls it, and that’s a reason to give thanks!”
– Wade Rathke, Founder and Chief Organizer of ACORN, and currently Chief Organizer ACORN International


“After reading the cover poem, and the first paragraph, tears came into my eyes…”
– Amy Fields, General Manager, Eastside Food Co-op, Minnesota


“[Stewart has] captured the organizing journey of our generation from the community to the Employee Free Choice Act, from the South to the halls of Congress.”
– Larry Cohen, President, Communication Workers of America


Two wonderful quotes from Diane Ersbo, Union member on Stewart‘s new book Playing Bigger Than You Are: A Life in Organizing.

1. “Hi Stewart– just want to say thanks for writing the book Playing Bigger Than You Are: A Life in Organizing. [I got] a free copy not too long ago, and I read it in one sitting. I LOVED IT!!! I just got done sending her a note saying that I can’t help getting the title out of my mind, boy did you nail it for organizers! Thank you Brother!”

2. “I was given a copy of this book today and truth be told it was on my ever growing list of “to gets”. I’m just an every day rank-and-filer, working middle class mom who values and benefits from unions. I want to learn all I can, to do what I can, right where I am, to help in any way I can. So in my own small …way I have been on a journey to do just that.

What I love about Stewart’s book is his personal story. So much so that I sat down to read it and could not stop. Nothing makes for better reading than an organizer’s story! I laughed while reading about investigators left waiting in a hot car and thanked God he was well versed in Bible passages that served him well. I connected with his testimony of how organizing work takes time and often times it’s precious family time. A work that has no time clock and often goes unnoticed. That organizing will have ups and downs, wins and losses, highs and lows. When he talks about the split between the AFL-CIO and the Change To Win unions, sometimes organizing may even put you at odds with your close friends.

From sleeping on a cot in a tent city to spending time in jail Stewart takes the reader on a journey through conflict and power. A journey of commitment and hope and the belief that people, above all else, will fight for dignity and respect. That together we can play bigger than we are and make our lives better.

Thank you Stewart for sharing your story!”

– Diane Ersbo, union member


“Really enjoying Playing Bigger Than You Are: A Life in Organizing. Thanks for your inspiration.”

– Roger McKenzie


Thank you! I just finished your book Playing Bigger Than You Are. Excellent read. Rivals Rules for Radicals as one of my favorites. We are still fighting for EFCA. A few of us have petitions out right now we have been sending to every labor office from the building trades directory. 3 of us are emailing them to everyone. So far in the last few days we have mailed over 100 offices in 14 states. I am also sending information to the state and local legislative offices. I appreciate all your hard work to make the working persons voice be heard. We are also sending info to repeal Taft-Hartley section 14(b). and sending repeals to every state to repeal RTW laws. If we can get everyone to stand together nothing can stop us… Thank you in solidarity. -Bill…


“I thoroughly enjoyed the book you wrote. I love your style of writing. The book also gave me encouragement as we work to regain Wisconsin. You have had, and continue to have, an amazing life. Sharing those experiences is beneficial to others.”

– Cam Markwardt

Do you LOVE Playing Bigger Than You Are: A Life in Organizing? We want to hear from you! Please take a few moments to write a review on Amazon, or send us a message through the contact page on this site!

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