Labor Day

In honor of Labor Day we’ve compiled this list exploring the American labor movement that celebrates the contributions of workers throughout our history.


Compiled by:
Amber M.
Beyond $15: Immigrant Workers, Faith Activists, and the Revival of the Labor Movement

Jonathan D. Rosenblum
Adult Nonfiction – 331.6209 Ros

The inside story of the first successful $15 minimum wage campaign that renewed a national labor movement and gained national recognition. The campaign emerged from an unlikely coalition that first united over the right of Muslim airport workers to pray. At stake was not just money but justice: whether the airport economy would serve the needs of everyone who made it work.


The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America

Rick Wartzman
Adult Nonfiction – 331.702 War

In this richly detailed and eye-opening book, Rick Wartzman chronicles the erosion of the relationship between American companies and their workers. By tracing the ups and downs of four corporate icons over seventy years, Wartzman illustrates just how much has been lost: job security and steadily rising pay, guaranteed pensions, robust health benefits, and much more.


Hidden America: From Coal Miners to Cowboys, an Extraordinary Exploration of the Unseen People Who Make this Country Work

Jeanne Marie Laskas
Adult Nonfiction – 305.562 Las

Award-winning journalist Jeanne Marie Laskas reveals “enlightening, entertaining, and often poignant” profiles of America's working class—the forgotten men and women who make our country run. She explores hidden worlds across American including an Alaskan oil rig, a migrant labor camp in Maine, the air traffic control center at LaGuardia Airport in New York, a beef ranch in Texas, a landfill in California, a long-haul trucker in Iowa, a gun shop in Arizona, and the Cincinnati Ben-Gals cheerleaders, mere footnotes in the moneymaking spectacle that is professional football.


Household Workers Unite: The Untold Story of African American Women Who Built a Movement

Premilla Nadasen
Adult Nonfiction – 331.4781 Nad

"Scholar/activist Nadasen showcases the stories of African American women who helped organize domestic workers from the 1950s through the 1970s. Experience firsthand accounts from the women who embodied tactics like remaking the public image of domestics, using public spaces to organize, and employing storytelling to galvanize the need for change." —Kirkus


The Jungle

Upton Sinclair
Adult Fiction – Sinclai

The Jungle explores a Lithuanian immigrant’s experience working in Chicago's meat packing industry during the early 20th century. The book exposed appalling working conditions, dehumanization of workers, brutal treatment of animals, as well as the health risks created by unsanitary stockyards and meatpacking facilities. Sinclair's novel sparked public outrage towards the meatpacking industry. The book made such impact it led to legislation regulating the food and drug industries in America.


Labor Rising: The Past and Future of Working People in America

Daniel Katz, Richard A. Greenwald
Adult Nonfiction – 331.88 Lab

In an era when workers are in desperate straits, labor historians Katz (All Together Different) and Greenwald offer a passionate and thought-provoking collection of original essays that focuses on the prospects for empowering labor in the U.S.  With such topics as how Wal-Mart transformed the labor market, the need to embrace green jobs, and the potential for reframing labor rights as a moral issue on college campuses, this cogent, varied, and accessible collection has much to offer union leaders, social advocates, and all those curious about the future of the labor movement. —Publishers Weekly


The Man Who Never Died: The Life, Times, and Legacy of Joe Hill, American Labor Icon

William M. Adler
Adult Nonfiction – 780.92 Hill Adl

In 1914, Joe Hill, the prolific songwriter for the Industrial Workers of the World (also known as the Wobblies), was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, igniting international controversy. In the first major biography of Hill, Adler explores his extraordinary life and presents persuasive evidence of his innocence. Hill would become organized labor's most venerated martyr—and a hero to folk singers such as Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan.


Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America

Elliott J. Gorn
Adult Nonfiction – 921 Jones Gor

"Her rallying cry was famous: 'Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.' A century ago, Mother Jones was a celebrated organizer and agitator, the very soul of the modern American labor movement. At coal strikes, steel strikes, railroad, textile, and brewery strikes, Mother Jones was always there, stirring the workers to action and enraging the powerful. In this first biography of 'the most dangerous woman in America,' Elliott J. Gorn proves why, in the words of Eugene V. Debs, Mother Jones 'has won her way into the hearts of the nation's toilers, and . . . will be lovingly remembered by their children and their children's children forever.'" —Amazon


There Is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America

Philip Dray
Adult Nonfiction – 331.88 Dra

"From the nineteenth-century textile mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, to the triumph of unions in the twentieth century and their waning influence today, the contest between labor and capital for the American bounty has shaped our national experience. In this stirring new history, Philip Dray shows us the vital accomplishments of organized labor and illuminates its central role in our social, political, economic, and cultural evolution. His epic, character-driven narrative not only restores to our collective memory the indelible story of American labor, it also demonstrates the importance of the fight for fairness and economic democracy, and why that effort remains so urgent today." —Amazon


Triangle: The Fire That Changed America

David Von Drehle
Adult Nonfiction – 974.71 Vo

"The Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York City became the deadliest workplace in American history when fire broke out on the premises on March 25, 1911. Within about 15 minutes the blaze killed 146 workers—most of them immigrant Jewish and Italian women in their teens and early 20s. Journalist Von Drehle explains the sociopolitical context in which the fire occurred and the subsequent successful push for industry reforms, but is at his best in his moment-by-moment account of the fire." —Publisher’s Weekly