Image of workers with Labor across it.

The connection between May Day and labor rights began in the United States at the height of the Industrial Revolution, when working conditions for men, women, and children were notoriously bad. In 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (later the American Federation of Labor) proclaimed “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor..."

To pay homage to those who laid the groundwork for labor rights and to those who continue the fight, we're celebrating some of our favorite related titles in this month’s virtual Diversity Book Display, with selected works touching on labor, economics, class, race, gender, etc.

Special thanks to our Materials Processing Coordinator, Leah Zande, for compiling this inspiring list. 

All electronic titles are available to read online and our physical titles may be requested for pick-up. 

“ImageFranchise: The Golden Arches in Black America
Chatelain, Marcia (2020).
Often blamed for the rising rates of obesity and diabetes among black Americans, fast food restaurants like McDonald's have long symbolized capitalism's villainous effects on our nation's most vulnerable communities. From civil rights to Ferguson, Franchise reveals the untold history of how fast food became one of the greatest generators of black wealth in America.

“ImageThe Forgotten Americans: An Economic Agenda for a Divided Nation
Sawhill, Isabel (2018).
One of the country’s leading scholars on economics and social policy, Isabel Sawhill addresses the enormous divisions in American society—economic, cultural, and political—and what might be done to bridge them. Widening inequality and the loss of jobs to trade and technology has left a significant portion of the American workforce disenfranchised and skeptical of governments and corporations alike.

“ImageReality Television & Class
Wood, Helen & Skeggs, Beverley (2011).
Through an analysis of programs such as Celebrity Big Brother, The Hills, MasterChef and Ladette to Lady, the contributors tackle common assumptions in television analysis to show how the mere fact of 'being on tv' is not a straightforward route to recognition, democracy, mobility or value; how new moral economies are emerging in which judgement and aspiration are normalized; and that class relationships are key dramatic devices in the spectacle of television entertainment.

“ImageThe Great Cowboy Strike: Bullets, Ballots & Class Conflict in the American West
Lause, Mark (2018).
In the pantheon of American icons, the cowboy embodies the traits of “rugged individualism,” independent, solitary, and stoical. In reality, cowboys were grossly exploited and underpaid seasonal workers, who responded to the abuses of their employers in a series of militant strikes. Their resistance arose from the rise and demise of a “beef bonanza” that attracted international capital.

“ImageQuarter Notes & Bank Notes: The Economics of Music Composition in the Eighteenth & Nineteenth Centuries
Scherer, F.M. (2018).
In 1700, most composers were employees of noble courts or the church. But by the nineteenth century, Chopin, Schumann, Brahms, Verdi, and many others functioned as freelance artists teaching, performing, and selling their compositions in the private marketplace. While some believe that Mozart's career marks a clean break between these two periods, this book tells the story of a more complex and interesting transition.

“BookWhat Unions No Longer Do
Rosenfield, Jake (2015).
From workers' wages to presidential elections, labor unions once exerted tremendous clout in American life. In the immediate post-World War II era, one in three workers belonged to a union. The fraction now is close to one in ten, and just one in twenty in the private sector--the lowest in a century. The only thing big about Big Labor today is the scope of its problems.

“ImageWe asked for workers. We got people instead.
Lyon, Beth (2016).
Highlights key issues surrounding low wage migration and grounds them in a human rights perspective. The anthology asks three fundamental questions: 1) Why is so much immigration outlawed?; 2) What fundamental rights should migrants without proper documentation possess?; and 3) What makes international human rights for migrants (as opposed to other vulnerable populations) so controversial?

“ImageThe Economic Other: Inequality in the American Political Imagination
Condon, Meghan & Wichowsky, Amber (2020).
Economic inequality is at a record high in the United States, but public demand for redistribution is not rising with it. Meghan Condon and Amber Wichowsky show that this paradox and other mysteries about class and US politics can be solved through a focus on social comparison. Powerful currents compete to propel attention up or down—toward the rich or the poor—pulling politics along in the wake.

“ImageHistories of Racial Capitalism
Jenkins, Destin & Leroy, Justin (2021).
The relationship between race and capitalism is one of the most enduring and controversial historical debates. The concept of racial capitalism offers a way out of this impasse. Racial capitalism is not simply a permutation, phase, or stage in the larger history of capitalism―since the beginning of the Atlantic slave trade and the colonization of the Americas, capitalism, in both material and ideological senses, has been racial, deriving social and economic value from racial classification and stratification.

“ImageBread & Roses: Gender & Class under Capitalism
D’Atri, Andrea (2021).
This book is a journey through the history of feminism. Using the concrete struggles of women, the Marxist feminist Andrea D'Atri traces the history of the women's and workers' movement from the French Revolution to Queer Theory. D’Atri analyzes the divergent paths feminists have woven for their liberation from oppression and uncovers where they have hit dead ends.

“ImageDigital Divisions: How Schools Create Inequality in the Tech Era
Rafalow, Matthew (2020).
In the digital age, schools are a central part of a nationwide effort to make access to technology more equitable, so that all young people, regardless of identity or background, have the opportunity to engage with the technologies that are essential to modern life. Most students, however, come to school with digital knowledge they’ve already acquired from the range of activities they participate in with peers online.

“BookThe Economic Case for LGBT Equality
Badgett, M.V. Lee (2020).
M. V. Lee Badgett argues that in addition to moral and human rights reasons for equality, we can now also make a financial argument. LGBT equality remains a persistent and pertinent issue. The continued passing of discriminatory laws, people being fired from jobs for their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, harassment and bullying in school, violence and hate crimes on the streets, exclusion from intolerant families, and health effects of stigma all make it incredibly difficult to live a good life.

“BookWhiteness at Work
Moreno, Michael; Quinn-Sánchez, Kathryn; Shaul, Michele (2020).
This volume presents personal essays that explore the effects of whiteness in the workplace, both illuminating the perniciousness of whiteness and recording the downright appalling manifestations of it. Some contributions here describe overt discrimination and hateful acts experienced by the writers themselves, while others describe how whiteness has affected colleagues, clients, students and friends.

“BookImmigrants, Schooling & Social Mobility: Does Culture Make a Difference?
Vermeulen, Hans & Perlmann, Joel (2000).
Immigrants, Schooling and Social Mobility confronts a central issue in the study of immigration and ethnicity - the opposition between culture and structure - and presents a collection of essays that transcend simplistic either/or approaches to this issue. The contributors explore educational and economic mobility of immigrant groups in Europe and America.

News category: Using the Libraries