10 Labor Day-Inspired Readings

BY Tom LeGro and murrey jacobson  September 6, 2010 at 3:45 PM EST

Happy Labor Day! Here’s a roundup of some labor-inspired reading (and a slide show, too) on what — we hope — is your day off from work. Or if you’re one of the 14.9 million unemployed Americans looking for work, we wish you all the best on your job search.

“They’d Trade Labor Day for Days Of Labor” by Scott Simon at NPR.

“Any one of us who’s lucky enough to have a job today must worry about losing it. This Labor Day we might salute the millions of Americans who don’t have jobs, but who in many ways work harder than ever.”

“When Unions Mattered, Prosperity Was Shared” by E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post.

“It was some years later when I learned about the heroic battles of the UAW, not only on behalf of those who worked in the great car plants but also for social and racial justice across our society….[It] is bittersweet on a Labor Day when so many Americans are unemployed, wages are stagnant or dropping, and the labor movement itself is in stark decline.”

“A Desperate Struggle for Survival” by Terrence Scanlon in the Washington Times.

“Labor unions are a relic, a unique product of 19th-century demographics and an early-20th-century industrial economy. In the 21st century, workers live longer, are more mobile, change jobs often and serve an increasingly service- and information-driven economy, factors ill-suited to the old labor ways.”

Jeffrey Brown speaks with philosopher, author and motorcycle-repair shop owner Matthew Crawford about the fulfillment found in building and fixing things.

“The irony is that I got that a job because I had a master’s degree. And, so, I thought I had to use it and wear a tie and become a knowledge worker. And the further irony is that I had previously worked as an unlicensed electrician making about twice as much money, and using my own judgment every day, and, as a result, feeling like my actions were genuinely my own.”

“The Real Lesson of Labor Day” by Robert Reich on the Huffington Post.

“Welcome to the worst Labor Day in the memory of most Americans.”

“After a Life in Labor, a Union Leader Retires, Frustrated by the Movement’s Troubles” by Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times.

“After 38 years as a gung ho trade unionist, Anna Burger is retiring — with unmistakable frustration — from her post as the highest-ranking woman in American labor movement history.”

Our own Paul Solman recently looked at the impact of long-term joblessness on the so-called “99ers” — those who are facing the cut off of unemployment benefits after 99 weeks — as well as how stress and burnout are taking a toll on workers asked to do more with fewer resources.

And 24/7 Wall St. looks at the Ten Greatest Labor Strikes in American History:

Management has always wanted work for as little compensation as possible. Labor has always wanted compensation for what it considers a fair day’s work. The gulf between the two has often caused violence and even assassination.

Finally, thanks to Flickr commons, we can celebrate Labor Days past. Here a great slidehow from the U.S. National Archives of the annual Garfield County Fair Parade, 1973:

With contributions from Maureen Hoch.