Berkeley Labor Guides

Berkeley Labor Guides


Relevant Library of Congress Subject Headings
Policies and Programs
Literature and history
Music and song
Visual Art
Organizations and events
Film and video
History, Old and New

Author: Lincoln Cushing

Labor culture is the soul of working life. It is the way we share the struggle and joy of earning our daily bread, and includes music, jokes, cartoons, posters, poetry, and murals. It can be noble or crude, insightful or clichéd. It can also be a very effective way to learn truths that may not be evident in surveys and questionnaires, and be the best medium for community building and shopfloor organizing.

"Any union organizer who wants to win has to be tuned in to culture"
- Barbara Ehrenreich, featured speaker at the Not Bread Alone exhibit, SEIU 1199.

The following directory is a selective list of key resources on this topic, and will be updated periodically as resources evolve.

Relevant Library of Congress Subject Headings:
["Working class. Here are entered works on the social class composed of persons who work for wages, generally excluding managers, professionals, and those not at the lower end of the educational and economic scale"]
Labor in art
Labor literature
Workers' theater
Working class in art
Working class writings
Working class - songs and music
Work songs

Call numbers and UC library location(s) in parentheses.


Policies and Program Documents

In September of 1982 the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) adopted a formal policy that integrated cultural work into union organizing, the Art and Working Life program. Although this effort collapsed when national politics gutted labor's influence, AWL policies and practices are important benchmarks in documenting and building labor culture.

"Community Arts in Australia", by Hughes, Nick from Webster's World of Cultural Democracy

"Creative Alliances", by Towart, Neale, 9/28/2001from Workers Online, the Official Organ of LaborNet

Art and Working Life in Australia, 1983, by Cassidy, Stephen, report prepared for the Australia Council of Trade Unions.

All Our Working Lives - A project by working people documenting their struggles and achievements, 1984, Coordinated by Hill, Andrew, Hill, Eugenia, and several trade unions.

Putting Art to Work, circa 1985, packet produced by the Australia Council of Trade Union's Art and Working Life Programme. Packet includes A Guide for Unions, A Guide for Artworkers, and a catalog of sample projects.


Literature and history

"Assembly Line," by B. Traven (originally published in The Night Visitor and Other Stories, 1966), reprinted 1977 with "Labor, Mystery, and Rebellion - the Story of B. Traven" by Jonah Raskin, by the New England Free Press, Somerville, MA. [not in library]

Blue Collar Goodbyes, by Sue Doro, 1992, Papier-Mache Press, Watsonville, CA. A collection of poems and short essays about the experiences of a woman railroad machinist. (Review [not in library]

Calf's Head and Union Tale - Labor Yarns at Work and Play, by Green, Archie, 1996, University of Illinois Press. (GR105.3 G74 1996, IIRL)

Labor Tales - Workers' yarns, legends, jokes, whoppers, and windies told on the job and at the hall, gathered by Green, Archie, 1993, by the Labor Archives and Research Center at San Francisco State. [not in library]

Overtime, Worker Writer Anthology from the Mill Hunk Herald, 1979-1989, edited by Evans, Gary, Piece of the Hunk Publishers, Pittsburgh, PA. The MHH was a genuinely working-class literary magazine published from the gritty steelworker community of Pittsburgh that gave voice to hundreds of class-conscious poets, writers, and artists. [not in library]

Pilebutt, Stories and Photographs About Pile Driving, collected by Munoz, Michael S. [ND- circa 1990], Pilebutt Press, San Leandro, CA. (pHD8083.C2.P5, Bancroft [non-circulating])

Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology, edited by Kornbluh, Joyce, 1964, University of Michigan Press. (HD8055.I5 K6 IIRL, reserve cabinet noncirculating)


Music and Song

How Can I Keep from Singing: Pete Seeger, by Dunaway, David King, 1981, McGraw-Hill. A biography of one of America's most well-known socially-conscious folk musicians. (ML420.S445.D8 1981, Music, Moffitt)

Rainbow at Midnight - Labor and Culture in the 1940's, by Lipsitz, George, 1994, University of Illinois Press. Note chapter "Ain't Nobody Here but us Chickens - the Class Origins of Rock and Roll." (HD8072.5.L56 1994, IIRL)

The Music of Labor: From Movement to Culture, web article by Richmond, Michael L.

San Francisco Bay Area Labor Heritage/Rockin' Solidarity Chorus

Songs of Work and Struggle

Detroit Cultural Workers and Artists Caucus - songs of the Detroit Newspaper strike

Songs and chants for the Maritime Union of Australia & Community Assembly Picket Lines


Visual Art

Agitate! Educate! Organize! American Labor Posters.
By Lincoln Cushing and Timothy W. Drescher, Cornell University Press, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8014-7427-9
More than 250 full-color reproductions of the best posters that have emerged from the American labor movement, with essays explaining their artistic and historical context. The images are selected from numerous archives, libraries, and special collections around the U.S.

At Work: The Art of California Labor
Gathering more than 100 recent and historical pieces, At Work: The Art of California Labor is the first major show to survey the vast range of California labor art in the past century. At Work includes a traveling exhibit; a lavishly illustrated catalog, and a series of lectures and special events.
N8219.L2 A85 2003

Docs Populi - Documents for the Public
A web database of poster art, including an archive of domestic labor posters produced by Inkworks Press in Berkeley, California.

Institute of Industrial Relations Labor Photography exhibit
An on-line gallery of current and archived California labor photo shows shown at UC Berkeley's Institute of Industrial Relations

Insurgent Images: The Agitprop Murals of Mike Alewitz by Paul Buhle with Mike Alewitz, Monthly Review Press, 2002; ISBN 1-58367-034-3,
Insurgent Images combines art, labor history, and political activism in a full-color, extensively illustrated, large-format, 160 page book. Showcased are murals for the Teamsters, the Oil Chemical and Atomic Workers, the Communications Workers, United Electrical Workers, the United Farmworkers, as well as the Highlander Folk School and other labor institutions.

Juana Alicia's "La Llorona" mural, San Francisco Mission District
This mural illustrates the effects of globalization on our natural environments, both urban and rural.

"A virtual museum designed to gather, identify and display examples of the cultural and artistic history of working people and to celebrate the trade union movement's contributions to that history." Jointly sponsored by the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation, Bread and Roses (SEIU 1199, see listing above), and The Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives.

Labor mural by the Portland (Oregon) Community College Faculty Federation, painted 1999
A good example of a local community-labor cultural project.

Labor mural panel (Market Street, San Francisco) by Mike Mosher
This is an example of nontraditional media (large-format digital output) and an artist insisting on the inclusion of labor themes in public art.

Northland Poster Collective
Producer of labor-oriented posters and other materials, Minneapolis, MN.

Rini Templeton
A web library of over 600 powerful graphics by this prolific artist

Solidarity Forever - Graphics of the International Labor Movement
Website documenting a labor poster exhibit produced by the
Center for the Study of Political Graphics (Los Angeles, CA).

Blueprint for a Strike, by Lonidier, Fred, a catalog for the exhibition For Labor, About Labor, By Labor: Our Struggles in the U.S. from the 70's to the 90's, shown June4-July 3, 1992 at the Walter/McBean Gallery of the San Francisco Art Museum. The catalog is a "Fragmentary Capsule History" of the Ironworkers and other unions at NASSCO (National Shipbuilding and Steel Company, San Diego) and includes excerpts from a photo-text installation "Blueprint for a Strike." [not in library]

From the Knights of Labor to the New World Order- Essays on Labor and Culture, by Buhle, Paul, 1997, Garland Publishers, NY. Note chapter on "The Iconographics of American Labor." (HD8066.B84 1997 Main and IIRL)

Picturing the System, by Atkinson, Conrad, 1981, Pluto Press/Institute of Contemporary Art, London, England. This book surveys Atkinson's work between 1970 and 1981. He has been exploring issues of class and culture for over thirty years. [not in library]

So Long, Partner!, by Wright, Fred, 1975, by United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), New York, NY. A compendium of over 40 years' worth of labor cartoons created by Fred Wright for the UE News Service. [not in library]

Milton Rogovin: The Forgotten Ones, 1985, University of Washington Press. From the 1950's into the 1980's Milton Rogovin photographed working people on the job and in their communities. (TR647.R62 1985, Main)

Social Concern and Urban Realism: American Painting of the 1930s, 1983, catalog for an exhibit by the same name organized by the Bread and Roses Cultural Project (see below) at the Boston University Art Gallery. (ND212.H54 1983, Main)

The Art of Rini Templeton, 1987, The Real Comet Press, Seattle, Washington. Rini Templeton's graphics are perhaps the most reproduced and unacknowledged works by any contemporary illustrator. (N6537.T46.A4 1987, Bancroft Library and Chicano Studies)

The Other America - Art and the Labour Movement in the United States, by Foner, Philip S. and Schulz, Reinhard, 1985, Journeyman Press, London. This is an edited and smaller version of the original work, Das Andere America, published in 1983 by Elefanten Press. The books were produced in conjunction with a huge exhibit by the same name, which is from a 1956 Ben Shahn poster titled "Love Songs for the other America". (HD8066.A75 1985, Bancroft)

Wobbly: 80 Years of Rebel Art, 1987, catalog produced by the Labor Archives and Research Center at San Francisco State for a graphics exhibit. (N8219.L2 W6 1987, Main)

WPA: Art for the Millions, Essays from the 1930's by Artists and Administrators of the WPA Federal Art Project, edited by O'Connor, Francis V., 1973, New York Graphic Society, Boston. The New Deal was a unique moment in U.S. history when the massive failure of the private sector gave rise to massive public-sector support for the arts, spurring a profusion of community art projects and employment opportunities for artists. [not in library]

Visual Perspectives [videorecording] (1997) by We Do the Work/California Working Group. Thus video documents the Not Bread Alone cultural exhibit presented by SEIU 1199 as well as an interview with painter Ralph Fasanella. (N8219.L2 V57, IIRL)


Organizations and events

Labor Heritage Foundation
A national organization that sponsors the annual Great Labor Arts Exchange (GLAE), publishes books, makes recordings, and organizes workshops.

An annual celebration of labor culture in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Western Workers Labor Heritage Festival
The longest-running labor festival outside of Washington, DC

Workers Arts and Heritage Centre (Ontario, Canada)
Host of "All We Worked For: A Travelling Exhibit Covering 100 Years of Canadian Workers' History"


Film and video (subject)

Visualizing Ideology: Labor vs. Capital
in the Age of Silent Film
An overview of the construction of class propaganda created by members of the USC History Department and the USC Center for Scholarly Technology.

Films About Work
An annotated course syllabus
by Professor David Levine, UC Berkeley

Working Stiffs, Union Maids, Reds, and Riffraff
An Expanded Guide to Films about Labor, by Tom Zaniello, Cornell University Press, 2003.
This guide lists 150 films, and provides extensive reviews as well as a labor film chronology and a guide to distribution sources. The selection is eclectic and far from comprehensive, but is a significant effort to honor this genre and make it accessible.
PN1995.9.L28 Z36 2003

Film and video (medium)

Golden Lands, Working Hands
10-part video on California labor history.

U.C. Berkeley's Media Resource Center
An annotated listing of labor video holdings in UC Berkeley's Media Resource Center.

Visual perspectives, videocassette by the California Working Group Inc. and We Do The Work, 1995. The first section is about a conference on the cultural aspects of working people involving filmmakers and other artists. The second part features Ralph Fasanella, one of the great contemporary painters of working-class culture. (N8219.L2 V57, IIRL)


History, Old and New

Archival nonprint collection of the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives.

California Labor History Map project
This is a digital version of a printed map, and enables users to explore, by location, date, or text search, over 1200 key events in the state’s labor history that have affected the lives of working people. Detailed short essays describe the larger historical context surrounding many of these events.

Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, University of Washington
Includes the WTO History Project, The Seattle General Strike, The Harry Bridges Project, and more.

Inventory of American Labor Landmarks
A catalog of United States sites commemorating the history and heritage of America's workers. These include: monuments, memorials, historic markers, union halls, historic buildings, restored dwellings, public sculpture, museums, history tours, heritage projects, preservation areas, and murals.

The Women and Labor History Project - Working Women's Stories
Promoting education on women, activism, and labor unions in Chicago.

Labor and Working Class History Association
"Labor history finds expression in many mediums, some of which reach potentially broad audiences. The arts--visual and graphic, theater, film and music--provide significant creative outlets for labor historians and artists to convey the human dimensions of labor's past. LAWCHA seeks to provide a forum for publicizing and profiling such creative undertakings."

San Francisco Labor History Tour - A Map and Guide to Important Places & Exciting Events, 1989, by the Labor Archives and Research Center, SF State University

U.S. Labor and Industrial History WWW Audio Archive, Department of History, University of Albany, SUNY
Recordings drawn from audio archives throughout the world as well as from U. of A. collections, organized by topic and archival repository.



ColorLines magazine, published by the Applied Research Center

Labor Beat
An independent rank-and-file labor forum and producers of labor television and radio.



A New York City based group of artists, scholars, teachers, and writers organized to develop public art projects based the relationship of history to contemporary society. (some materials to be housed at IIRL)



American Labor Studies Center
The American Labor Studies Center is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to collect, analyze, evaluate, create and disseminate labor history and labor studies curricula and related materials to K-12 teachers nationwide.

American Sociological Association

Bread and Roses Cultural Project
The not-for-profit cultural arm of Local 1199, the National Health and Human Services Employees Union. Its 220,000 workers serve in all job categories in health care institutions throughout the metropolitan area, New Jersey and Florida. 1199 has been one of the most active unions using culture as an organizing tool. Also see "LaborArts", under "Visual Art" above.

LAWCHA (Labor and Working Class History Association)
Links to sites that "Provide significant creative outlets for labor historians and artists to convey the human dimensions of labor's past."

The Culture and History of America at Work (AFL-CIO)



Cesar Chavez quotes

Progressive and Labor Quotes, compiled by Z Magazine, Boston, MA.

Solidarity Forever labor quotes


Image Credits:

Art and Working Life- restored banner from the Operative Painters & Decorators Union of Australia.
LaborTales-"'Efficiency' ink drawing by Art Young for the Amalgamated Illustrated Almanac (ACTWA), 1924.
Hands-Illustration by Lincoln Cushing, from Docs Populi Archive.
RiniWorker-illustration by Rini Templeton.
The Jungle-Poster for film of 'The Jungle', by Upton Sinclair, from Visualizing Ideology: Labor vs. Capital in the Age of Silent Films.