Resources For Labor Day Weekend, Emphasis on ‘Labor,’ as in ‘Unions’

I make no secret of the fact that there is a big soft spot in my heart for the tremendous gains of the labor movement in American history and a big sad spot for how certain unions–like those representing meatpackers and agricultural workers–have been all but killed. Since many–probably most–of my ancestors made their way in the world and in this country as laboring folks, I am proud to acknowledge that the privileges I have had owe to their hard work and struggle to create an American middle class.

{Not incidentally, my grandparents met and fell in love at a Catholic Worker meeting, where my grandfather had interned. With Dorothy Day, natch.}

So in no particular order, here are some of my favorite pro-labor, pro-union resources for really celebrating Labor Day.
Please add your own favorites in the comments!


How Green Was My Valley (1941)

On the Waterfront (1954)

The Pajama Game (1957)

I may or may not have appeared in a stage production of this in 9th grade…

Norma Rae (1979)

Vintage Sally Field! Click the title to read how the real Norma Rae died of cancer and how her insurer delayed treatment. Which reminds me of this post.

Triangle Fire (PBS Documentary, 2011)

My dad would want me to point out that seeing the Triangle Fire (like, in person) transformed Al Smith from a part of the Tammany Hall machine to a passionate advocate for worker’s (um, human?!) rights.


If I Had a Hammer: Songs of Hope and Struggle (Pete Seeger)

“Union Maid” by Woody Guthrie

“Which Side Are You On?” (Ani DiFranco revision of the Pete Seeger Song)

Joan Baez singing “Joe Hill” at Woodstock

Smithsonian Folkways’ ” ‘Talking Union’ and Other Union Songs”


I can’t resist pointing out that Katherine Paterson (the author of the first two novels) is a former Presbyterian (USA) mission co-worker. I’m afraid I idolize her writing ability a bit. What a storyteller!

And four of the five are young adult (YA) novels. I can’t help it; that’s a favorite category of mine.
Bread and Roses, Too by Katherine Paterson

Lyddie by Katherine Paterson

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (it’s less about nasty meat than textbooks might lead you to believe!)

Happy Labor Day!

{See you on Tuesday}

(also at Sojourners)

One thought on “Resources For Labor Day Weekend, Emphasis on ‘Labor,’ as in ‘Unions’

  1. Nice collection of resources, Rachel. The labor movement has done as much to make America prosperous as the entrepreneurs who started up the businesses people work in.

    I remember watching a local college production of The Pajama Game when I was a teen, and all I saw was a romantic musical. I was fairly surprised when I saw the film years later and discovered it’s a pro-labor piece of work. Plus, who can beat that cast?

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