Reader’s Advisory for Labor Day in Library News & Notes

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We suspect you are ready for the long Labor Day weekend. Since there’s always room for more books, I’m taking the opportunity to promote this unheralded holiday.

In practically every aspect of work or home-life, things are better when everyone works together for a common goal.

In a nutshell, that’s what we celebrate on Labor Day. To learn more, or teach family members, here is a representative few of the wide range of titles we have for your exploration.

For our youngest readers, we suggest Who was Cesar Chavez? by Dana Meachen Rau.

When he was young, Cesar and his Mexican American family toiled in the fields as migrant farm workers. He knew all too well the hardships farm workers faced. His public-relations approach to unionism and aggressive but nonviolent tactics made the farm workers’ struggle a moral cause with nationwide support. Along with Dolores Huerta, he cofounded the National Farmworkers Association. His dedication to his work earned him numerous friends and supporters, including Robert Kennedy and Jesse Jackson.

Children and adults alike will enjoy learning about a local mover and shaker. Fannie Never Flinched : One Woman’s Courage in the Struggle for American Labor Union Rights by Mary Cronk Farrell. 

Fannie became a union activist, helping create St. Louis, Missouri, Local 67 of the United Garment Workers of America. She traveled the nation and eventually gave her life, calling for fair wages and decent working and living conditions for workers in both the garment and mining industries.

Jane McAlevey’s A Collective Bargain : Unions, Organizing, and the Fight for Democracy makes the case that unions are one of the only institutions capable of taking effective action against today’s super-rich corporate class.

For decades, racism, corporate greed, and a skewed political system have been eating away at the social and political fabric of the United States. Yet as McAlevey reminds us, there is one weapon whose effectiveness has been proven repeatedly throughout U.S. history: unions.

Since the 1930s, when unions flourished under New Deal protections, corporations have waged a stealthy and ruthless war against the labor movement. And they’ve been winning.

Until today. Because, as McAlevey shows, unions are making a comeback. Want to reverse the nation’s mounting wealth gap? Put an end to sexual harassment in the workplace? End racial disparities on the job? Negotiate climate justice? Bring back unions.

As McAlevey travels from Pennsylvania hospitals, where nurses are building a new kind of patient-centered unionism, to Silicon Valley, where tech workers have turned to old-fashioned collective action, to the battle being waged by America’s teachers, readers have a ringside seat at the struggles that will shape our country―and our future.

If you’re like me and enjoy learning history through great storytelling, there are many novels that explore the subject of labor unions. 

The Cold Millions, the 2020 novel by Jess Walter, is about two orphans Gig and Rye Dolan. The brothers work grueling, odd jobs just to secure a meal and spend nights sleeping wherever they can.

Twenty-three-year-old Gig is a passionate union man, fighting for fair pay and calling out the corrupt employers who exploit the working class.

When his brother’s life is on the line, the younger brother, Rye must evade the barbaric police force, maneuver his way out of the clutches of a wealthy businessman, and figure out what he truly stands for.

Happy reading! Susan C.

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