Labor Day: What is Labor Studies?

Established as a way to recognize “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations,” Labor Day is a tribute to the social and economic achievements of workers across the country. Celebrated each September in the United States, this important holiday contributes to our understanding of the American worker and their contributions to the production and strength of the nation.

As an interdisciplinary field, labor studies combines the work of political science, sociology, economics, and history, in order to analyze issues of the historic and contemporary workforce. Work is a central feature of today’s lives, and labor issues have long been of significant importance. Practitioners and scholars of labor studies review historic controversies of the labor movement and its history. In addition, they analyze the strategic barriers and challenges to organizational change in place today to effectively assist workers in national and international contexts.

9781625341150_0Labor studies scholarship is an active subject heading for UMass Press, particularly for its interdisciplinary nature. Last December, we published For Jobs and Freedom, a collection of writings by the tireless civil rights activist and union leader A. Philip Randolph (1889-1979). Known for leading the struggle for black freedom and organizing the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, Randolph was a key leader in the Civil Rights Movement and the American labor movement from the 1930s to 1960s. For Jobs and Freedom, edited by Andrew Kerstein and David Lucander, highlights Randolph’s essential writings over a five-decade career. Combining more than seventy published and unpublished pieces, the editors organized his writings thematically in order to situate speeches within Randolph’s major interests – dismantling workplace inequality, expanding civil rights, confronting racial segregation, and building international coalitions. John Bracey Jr., coeditor of SOS – Calling All Black People, says “this book will go a long way in making easily accessible . . . the leading figure among Blacks in the trade union movement from the 1930s until his death . . . I give it my strongest endorsement.” For more information on For Jobs and Freedom, please visit our website or view our subject heading on labor studies.

We here at UMass Press would like to wish everyone a relaxing Labor Day.

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