The irony of the modern Labor Day is, of course, the fact that people who work for sub-living wages generally have to work on it. I myself will be working Saturday-Sunday-Monday, and presumably I’ll be humming Billy Bragg tunes under my breath the whole time.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a job that recognizes Labor Day as a holiday, consider reading a book or two with your free time. Here are my two favourite pro-labor children’s books. Consider picking copies up at your local bookstore or library, and enjoy some empowering stories of workers uniting for better treatment! You can listen to some classic Labor Day songs while you do.
A perfect introduction to the value of collective bargaining, written in a way both preschoolers and adults can both appreciate. Farmer Brown’s cows aren’t satisfied with life on the farm as it stands–and now that they’ve found a typewriter, they’re ready to make their complaints known. He’s going to hear a lot of
click, clack, MOO
in the future if he doesn’t take their strike seriously! Cronin’s text is funny, and while I personally don’t care for the illustrations, they’re serviceable enough. The implications of the text, that striking for better treatment is a worthwhile endeavour, matters more than whether the cows are rendered to my taste or not.
The title might put you off, but give it a chance anyway, because Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy is a wonderful story about the ways education and community organizing can lead to better lives for everyone. Miri lives in poverty on Mount Eskel, the backwoods hick territory of her fairy-tale kingdom, where everyone strong enough to work mines stone for starvation wages. When the kingdoms’ seers declare that the next princess of the realm will come from Mount Eskel, the people down the mountain are horrified–after all, the girls of Mount Eskel are illiterate peasants who don’t even wear shoes. What to do? Send a delegation up to educate them, in hopes that one of them might make a suitable bride for the prince.
Miri and her friends learn more than just the three “R”s when they’re coerced into the makeshift “princess academy.” Whole worlds open up to them because of their newfound learning–and Miri discovers a shocking fact. The stone they mine is, in fact, considered incredibly valuable down the mountain. Now that she knows the truth of what their work is worth, can she convince the other villagers to demand fair prices for the fruits of their labor? And who’s going to marry that prince anyway? Find out in Princess Academy.
For more great Labor Day books–for you or the children in your life–check out this list from DailyKos. And remember: there is power in a union!