Six years ago, around about now, I was being taken on a tour of "The Lowers" in Columbus, Ohio. The Lowers (low ground near the river) had been a neat enough working/middle-class neighbourhood of wooden houses and shopping streets, before being hit by the "great unravelling" -- the relentless destruction of working life in America. The wooden houses were falling apart; the shopping streets were boarded up. Instead of shops, there were church-run "food pantries". The local bar had become a depot for pimps to run drugs and girls out of.

My tour guide was Sandy, a 50-something heavyset woman who, like many there, worked in the service sector of Ohio State University -- a vast organisation that ran on huge sporting events. Sodexo, a huge French-owned service company with links to the Socialist Party, ran the food kiosks, and in 2009, they had squeezed the workers down to zero-hours contracts on reduced wages, split shifts. They relied on the scattered nature of the workforce, and a residual sense, in America, that the wage was the wage. But by 2010 they had had enough, and their union, the Service Employees International Union, went on strike.