Books on Labor Economics


February 14, 2022

331. Labor economics

Further Reading:

Frank Bardacke Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers, 2011.

The United Farm Workers or UFW was a union founded among California’s agricultural fields and gave a voice to the largely unheard Latino community. Frank Bardacke traces the rise of the organization and the internal struggles that led to its fall. Reading the book will give insight into the career of Cesar Chavez and a window into the world of the farmworker.

J. P. Hansen The Bliss List: The Ultimate Guide to Living the Dream at Work and Beyond!, 2009.

We spend too much time working to make a career of something we dislike. Life coach J.P. Hansen shares how to find a job that will use your talents and align with your goals.

Jack Kelly The Edge of Anarchy: The Railroad Barons, the Gilded Age, and the Greatest Labor Uprising in America, 2019.

During the Gilded Age at the end of the 19th century, America experienced a battle between industry, labor, and the government that began with a boycott of Pullman sleeping cars by railroad employees that was so disruptive the U.S. Army became involved. This early clash has echoes that are still with us today. Jack Kelly explores why.

Devah Pager Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work, 2007.

In an experiment, Devah Pager sent pairs of young men out into the Milwaukee job market with identical records, except one had to mark “yes” to “Have you been convicted of a crime?” She found those who said yes were half as likely to be called back. It was worse for Black men. They were less likely to be called back than White men regardless of how they answered the question. Pager speculates on the horrible consequences for these segments of society and the price we all pay for it.

Thomas Piketty Capital in the Twenty-First Century, 2013.

French economist Thomas Piketty analyzed data from twenty countries over three centuries. He found a picture of wealth distribution that should serve as a warning for world economies. Structural inequities and concentrations of capital are exacerbating problems that may threaten global stability if left unchecked.

Robert Shogan The Battle of Blair Mountain: The Story of America’s Largest Labor Uprising, 2004.

Robert Shogan tells of the 1921 armed battle between West Virginia coal miners and the abusive mine owners backed by a corrupt state. The federal government was called to end the fight and forced the workers to give up their arms. It has shaped U.S. labor for a century.

Nick Taylor American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR Put the Nation to Work, 2008.

The Works Progress Administration was part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. For eight years, the agency put people back to work during the Great Depression, improved infrastructures such as roads and bridges, sewed clothes, made food, painted pictures, and wrote books. We are still benefitting from these programs today.

Ned Sublette The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry, 2015.

Enslaved people were not only used as tools to produce crops. Historian Ned Sublette points out that exploitation for the biological production of more enslaved people was a different industry. For example, when an enslaved person gave birth to an infant, the child belonged, not to her or the child’s father, but to the owner who could sell it at will. This industry shaped America’s Constitution to the Emancipation Proclamation.

Studs Terkel Working: People Talk about What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do, 1974.

When this book was first released, the Boston Globe called it “…a work of art. To read it is to hear America talking.” Pulitzer Prize-winning author Studs Terkel talked to men and women all over America and recorded, in their own words, what they do to earn money and how they feel about it.

For more information about the Further Reading series, see Further Reading: Start Here.


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