‘Must Be Hard to Live on That’: A Labor Day Reading List

According the the U.S. Department of Labor, the first Labor Day was celebrated in 1882 in New York City, and is now “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” Here, five stories from the labor movement, and from workers just looking for a better opportunity for themselves.

1. “Temp Land: Working in the New Economy.” (Michael Grabell, ProPublica)

ProPublica’s Michael Grabell has been looking at the blue collar temp industry over the course of a year. His stories have included a look at the underworld of labor brokers, the lack of U.S. protections for temp workers, and the “temp towns” that dot America.

2. “Opportunity’s Knocks.” (Eli Saslow, Washington Post, May 2014)

The fastest growing job in America—working as a nurse aide—is also among the hardest. Saslow, a recent Pulitzer winner, follows a single mother hoping to find a stable job and build a better life for her family.

3. “Wal-Mart Manager Speaks Out About His Store’s Ugly Reality.” (Josh Eidelson, Salon, March 2014)

Eidelson talks to an assistant manager at Wal-Mart about his experience working at his store.

4. “The Secret Life of a Food Stamp.” (Krissy Clark, Marketplace, April 2014)

Walmart brings in more food stamp revenue than any other company, and much of it comes from their employees.

5. “Rousing Workers to Seek Higher Wages.” (Alana Samuels, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 2013)

“Naquasia LeGrand was an apolitical fast-food worker before meeting a union organizer. Now she’s a vocal backer of a movement to double the $7.50-an-hour minimum wage.”

See also: Stephen Colbert’s interview with LeGrand

Photo: Keel Center