Labor History and Rights Resources
You may have heard the phrase “regulations are written in blood.” The laws and regulations that gave us weekends and paid holidays, the right to form unions, and so many of our rights and protections at work exist because people fought for them. Below is just a short list of resources about the history of labor, the issues we face at work today, and your rights to organize at your workplace. We hope it inspires you to continue your own learning and research!
National Organizations and Websites
The AFL-CIO is a democratic, voluntary federation of 56 national and international labor unions, representing 12.5 million working men and women. If you’re interested in organizing at your workplace, take a look at their “Form a Union” resources.
Raise the Minimum Wage is a campaign from the National Employment Law Project with the goal of raising the federal minimum wage to $15.
The Smithsonian Folkways Recordings collection includes many labor and protest songs from the United States and around the world. Take some time to browse through the collection, or search for artists like Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and Joe Glazer, or take a look at specific albums and playlists like Classic Labor Songs.
Local Organizations and Websites
Westchester-Putnam Central Labor Body is the local Labor Council chartered by the national AFL-CIO.
Explore this interactive map to learn more not just about the events of labor movement history, but the hidden history we walk by everyday! Did you know, for example, that the first slave revolt in New York took place just outside of where the Federal Reserve building is today? Or that when you walk by 54th and Broadway, you’re walking by the headquarters of The International Ladies Garment Workers’ Union?
The Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives collects material about the history of labor and social movements in the United States.
The immigrant communities of New York City played an important role in the labor movement in the United States. Learn more by making a visit to the Tenement Museum in-person, or by exploring their online exhibits, including Immigrants Mean Business: An Enduring History of Entrepreneurship.
Books and Other Resources At the Library
- Labor Day by Erika S. Manley
- Which Side Are You On?: the Story of a Song by George Ella Lyon
- Who Was Cesar Chavez? by Dana Meachen Rau
- Dolores Huerta: a Hero to Migrant Workers by Sarah Warren
- Mother Jones: One Woman’s Fight for Labor by Betsy Harvey Kraft
- The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (graphic novel adapted by Peter Kuper)
- A. Philip Randolph and the African-American Labor Movement by Calvin Craig Miller
- Industry and Business by Linda Leuzzi
- Flesh and Blood So Cheap: the Triangle Fire and Its Legacy by Albert Marrin
- The Last Ballad: a Novel by Wiley Cash
- An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
- Empire Rising by Thomas Kelly
- Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
- Woody Guthrie: a Life by Joe Klein
- The Protest Singer: an Intimate Portrait of Pete Seeger by Alec Wilkinson
- Work Won’t Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone by Sarah Jaffe
- On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane by Emily Guendelsberger
- The End of Loyalty: the Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America by Rick Wartzman
- Hear My Sad Story: the True Tales That Inspired Stagolee, John Henry, and Other Traditional American Folk Songs by Richard Polenberg
- The Devil Is Here in These Hills: West Virginia Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom by James Green
- Triangle: the Fire That Changed America by David Von Drehle (available as ebook)
- Mother Jones and Her Army of Mill Children by Jonah Winter and Nancy Carpenter (available as ebook)
- Only One Thing Can Save Us: Why America Needs a New Kind of Labor Movement by Thomas Geoghegan (available as ebook)
- A Voice From the South by Anna Julia Cooper (available as ebook)
- Inside the Labor Movement by Therese M. Shea (available as ebook)
- Jews in the American Labor Movement: Past, Present and Future by Bennett Muraskin (available as ebook)
- The Child Labor Reform Movement by Steven Otfinoski (available as ebook)
- Death in the Haymarket by James Green (available as audiobook)
- Haymarket by Justin Goodstein (available as ebook)
- Haymarket by Martin Duberman (available as ebook)
- The Chicago Haymarket Affair: a Guide to a Labor Rights Milestone by Joseph Anthony Rulli (available as ebook)
- Autobiography of Mother Jones by Mother Jones (available as ebook)