May Day books

May 01, 2012|By Dave Rosenthal

May Day (May 1) seems a bit old-fashioned these days, as union membership is squeezed, but it recounts the bitter fight for organized labor in American and around the world. Much of that fight traces back to Baltimore in 1866, when trade union representatives created the National Labor Union, which advocated for an eight-hour workday. That issue became the centerpiece of May Day demonstrations in the United States and around the world, politicizing a day that had previously marked the coming of spring.

To get in the mood for May Day, here is some recommended reading, which recounts crucial moments in the union movement in Baltimore and nationwide.:

-- "The Baltimore Book," edited by Elizabeth Fee, Linda Shopes and Linda Zeidman. This book, one of my favorites, provides a siocial history of the city, and opens on the B&O Railroad strike of 1877,

-- "Triangle:The Fire That Changed America," by David von Drehle, is a moving account of the Tiangle Shirtwaist factory fire in New York City.

-- "There Is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America" by Philip Dray, a human portrayal of key moments in the labor movement. 

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