Like some other reviewers I came across this book after seeing the movie North Country. The movie though is just good entertainment pulling at the heartstrings and very loosely based on the legal problems of single mother Lois Jenson.
The book, I'm pleased to say, is much more gripping and will keep you turning the pages until the end. I thought it raised various issues like:
*Why did the legal aspects of this case take from 1984 until a settlement in 1998? In 1997 a judgement from the Eighth Circuit court commented on the 'inordinate delay' and that it simply was not possible for the parties to get justice 'when a final outcome is issued more than ten years' after the case was filed and more than fifteen years since Lois started her class action.
*Why did the mineworkers union maintain such a male chauvinist view towards its female members? I always assumed that Minnesota folk, historically populated by hard working European immigrants in a hostile physical environment would have been much more sympathetic to the sexual harassment that went on year after year in the mines. In fact very few males come out of this story with much credibility, from the mine management down to the union, they are really shown to be sexist and ultra conservative when females start to (legally) work in their domain.
*Why did it take so long for the mines main insurance company, who were going to be the ultimate payers of any compensation, to get to grips with the case? When they did get closely involved in 1998 the problems seemed to evaporate and the ladies got their money
The authors write in a simple straightforward style fortunately avoiding flowery generalisations that seem a staple of non-fiction writing. The story unfolds in a logically time frame from March 1975 to the final financial settlement in November 1998. Early on there is an excellent historical overview of the Mesabi Range and the importance of the raw materials lying just under the surface. A nice touch I thought was the frequent explanations of points of law and how these affected the progress of the case.
A couple of points occurred to me as a read the book: I would have liked to see a listing at the start describing the principals, frequently a name popped up and I wondered who the person was having seen a mention maybe a hundred pages earlier. So much of the story describes the mine and other buildings, a simple diagram of the plant layout would have been helpful.
'Class Action' is a powerful narrative about a hostile working environment and the legal system and it reminds of a quote by Thomas Noon Talfourd:
Fill the seats of justice
With good men not so absolute in goodness
As to forget what human frailty is.
BTW. I wanted to see photos of the four heroes of the book, the wonderful Lois Jenson and her legal team Paul Sprenger, Jane Lang and Jean Boler and I found them all through Google Images.