Happy Labor Day! In celebration and solidarity of the strides made for worker’s rights, and of the struggles that laborers continue to face today, we’ve prepared a list of suggested UC Press titles. For this recommended reading list, we polled a selection of Bay Area book aficionados—UC Press staff, that is!—on their most recommended titles on labor and the labor movement.
Read on, and please enjoy this long-awaited edition of “Weekend Armchair”!
On the Line: Slaughterhouse Lives and the Making of the New South by Vanesa Ribas
I first read On the Line in pre-release galley form on a plane en route to the American Sociological Association’s 2015 meeting; subsequently, I spent the whole conference (and many months after) ruminating over it, especially Ribas’ observations on ‘prismatic engagement’ and the averse effects of racial triangulation. Now more than ever, we need to listen to the voices of immigrant workers and working class people of color, and Ribas’ ethnography brings them—and their relationships to each other—into the forefront.
—Danielle Rivera, PR and Marketing Assistant
In the Fields of the North / En los campos del norte by David Bacon
Never have I thought about how the food at my table got there until seeing David Bacon’s photos. It was the first time that I really saw the farmworkers who feed us—tired eyes, calloused hands, and the small living quarters that they’ve made home. Despite the backbreaking work and the miles between them and their families, they’ve created a community that helps other communities flourish. It’s heart-wrenching, hopeful, and eye-opening.
—Chris Sosa Loomis, Senior Marketing Manager
America’s Social Arsonist: Fred Ross and Grassroots Organizing in the Twentieth Century by Gabriel Thompson
I’d not previously heard of Fred Ross or known of his trailblazing work as an activist, and was initially drawn to this fascinating book by its title, as I too aspire to be a “social arsonist”—an appealingly incendiary alternative to today’s prim and proper “change agent.” Reading through Gabriel Thompson’s superb biography and social history, I learned that the renegade Ross truly walked it like he talked it, managing the labor camp that inspired John Steinbeck’s depiction of the hardscrabble settlement in The Grapes of Wrath, and later crossing paths with a young Cesar Chavez. Antifa protesters would do well to read up on Ross and adopt his effective organizing tactics.
—Steven Jenkins, Development Director
The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling by Arlie Russell Hochschild
This book is high on my list of next-to-read UC Press books. As the desk and exam copy liaison, I see a lot of requests for this title for university courses and have always been intrigued by the concept of human emotion as emotional labor and how that is manipulated in the work force.
—Pauline Kuykendall, Coursebook Outreach
Nightshift NYC by Russell Leigh Sharman and Cheryl Harris Sharman, photography by Corey Hayes
Nightshift NYC was the first UC Press book I read after starting working at the Press. The book is an exploration of the lives of people who work all night long in New York City. You can’t have a city that doesn’t sleep without people who stay up all night to keep the lights on, transportation moving, and the stores, diners, and watering holes open. For those of us who work a 9am to 5pm job and sleep at night, it is a fascinating and well written look into the lives of people whose work is mostly invisible to us.
—Deb Nasitka, Systems Development Manager
Sal Si Puedes (Escape if You Can) by Peter Matthiessen
This has been on my to-read list for a while, but I still haven’t gotten to it. Maybe this is the weekend! It’s the legendary Peter Matthiessen writing about the great labor movement leader, Cesar Chavez, and it’s a classic of the history of the labor movement in the United States. Well worth spending some time with.
—Erich van Rijn, Interim Director
The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream by Steve Viscelli
Before reading The Big Rig, I’d never really considered the working life of a long haul trucker. Somehow I associated the profession with freedom and flexibility. On the contrary. Steve Viscelli reveals how poorly paid and demanding the work is, how exploited truckers are, and how few options drivers have to improve their working conditions or pay. His book draws on many hours of interviews and observations, but his first-hard accounts are particularly compelling: “I had spent 16 hours driving through traffic, delivering and picking up freight, and waiting, but I would only be paid for the 215 miles I drove. At 26 cents per mile, I had earned a grand total of $56, or $3.50 per hour.”
—Kate Warne, Managing Editor