Labor Day Reads

2022 has been a big year for Labor movements: the pandemic has changed the way we think about workplace safety and who makes decisions that have impact on employers and employees alike. You may or may not be working today, but as many of us enjoy a long weekend with Monday off, others in industries we rely on may be working today: those in customer service, food, hospitality, agriculture, retail, emergency, health, sanitation, and transportation, to name a few. Thank you to workers in these industries —and thank you to the people who have come before us who have made work better for everyone, bringing humane working conditions within reach for tomorrow.

The following books are brand new titles published in 2022 exploring various aspects of the labor movement: there is something for everyone, from poetry to personal essays, journalism, and history.

We Had Our Reasons by Ricardo Ruiz
This collection of poems by Ricardo Ruiz, a first-generation Mexican American from Othello, Washington, was a collaborative project with his family and the Mexican farming community in Eastern Washington. The poems explore belonging to a diaspora—leaving one’s home and the isolation of working in rural communities in the United States. Told through poetry, transcripts, and biographies, these stories illuminate and uplift the voices of workers and families at the foundation of our local food system.

Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor by Kim Kelly
Journalist Kim Kelly’s fierce and meticulously researched book shines a light on the forgotten and unknown heroes in the fight for workers’ rights we know today, and their successes: child labor laws, the 40-hour work week, anti-harassment, safety standards, and more. The activists featured in this book lived intersectional lives, their identities spanning gender, race, class, ability, sexual orientation; they were sex workers, prisoners, immigrants and the working poor, and Fight Like Hell puts them center stage.

On the Line: A Story of Class, Solidarity, and Two Women’s Epic Fight to Build a Union by Daisy Pitkin
Described as intimate and moving by reviews, On the Line chronicles the unionization efforts of laundry workers in Arizona in 2003. The book focuses on the friendship of two women: author Daisy Pitkin, a labor organizer, and Alma, a laundry worker who partnered to unionize and protect workers from unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Through stories of their grassroots organizing, making connections in communities, getting fired, and legal battles, Pitkin centers the voices of women of color and shows the reader the organic evolution of a labor movement.

Talking to the Girls, edited by Edvige Giunta and Mary Anne Trasciatti
Talking to the Girls is a collection of personal and political essays from people around the world affected by The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire which burned down a New York City garment factory in 1911, killing nearly 150 workers in minutes, most of them immigrant women and girls. The essays come from artists, activists and family members of the workers. These stories reflect on the profound impact this tragedy had in pushing for more protection for society’s most vulnerable workers.

The Disney Revolt: The Great Labor War of Animation’s Golden Age by Jake S. Friedman
This book will get you thinking about creativity as labor! New historical research unveils a forgotten chapter in Disney’s history, one where artists were fighting to get recognition for animation as a new art form while the world prepared to enter the Second World War. Follow one animator’s fight for fair working conditions and creative freedom through a strike, run-ins with the mob, the pressures of corporate Hollywood, and a changing America.

Check out our list American Labor History in Stories, Pictures and Song for even more about the labor movement past and present.

~ posted by Billie B.

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