Archives For Labor

 

Hymn of the Wiltshire Laborers
Charles Dickens

Today is the 200th anniversary of Dickens’ birth…

O GOD! who by Thy prophet’s hand
Didst smite the rocky brake,
Whence water came, at Thy command,
Thy people’s thirst to slake;
Strike, now, upon this granite wall,
Stern, obdurate, and high;
And let some drops of pity fall
For us who starve and die!

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“Take a Walk in Their Shoes

A Review of
The Maid’s Daughter:
Living Inside and Outside the American Dream

by Mary Romero

Review by Leslie Starasta.


The Maid’s Daughter:
Living Inside and Outside the American Dream

by Mary Romero.
Hardback: NYU Press, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

The opening scene of the movie version of The Help asks what it feels like to raise white children when your own children are being raised by someone else.  The Maid’s Daughter: Living Inside and Outside the American Dream examines this question and many others from the viewpoint of the child of domestic workers depicting how one woman of Latina descent traverses the cultural divide between Mexican culture and a privileged white upper class while truly belonging to neither.  Mary Romero, sociology professor at Arizona State University, transforms twenty years of recorded interviews with a woman referred to as “Olivia Sanchez” into a highly readable book which juxtaposes Olivia’s story, as told to Romero, with sociological commentary, research and selected interviews with other children of domestic workers.   This thought provoking study raises many questions to wrestle with on both individual and societal levels

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Laboring in the Lord’s Vineyard

A Review of

All You That Labor:
Religion and Ethics in the Living Wage Movement
.
C. Melissa Snarr.
Hardback: NYU Press, 2011.
Buy now:
[ Amazon ] [ Amazon – Kindle ]

Reviewed By Jess O. Hale, Jr.

As you look for a bargain on tomatoes at a large supermarket chain, the labor of a poorly paid farm worker seldom comes to mind nor does that of a hotel maid even if you leave a few dollars on the bed.   If you think about it, you know that those working folk need to make enough to pay rent, child care, health insurance and more—and you know that often they do not and the market is NOT working for those struggling ones among God’s children.  Then seeing video of noisy town hall meetings on health care or demonstrations protesting legislation affecting public employees might make you think that government is so dysfunctional that all citizens can do is go and shout, make a fuss and not accomplish anything.  In such a frustrating environment, a person of faith needs a tale of encouragement that a religiously grounded public witness can participate fruitfully in shaping a city where God’s justice means a person can labor and earn enough to live decently and perhaps even flourish.  In All You That Labor we find just such a tale as Vanderbilt ethics professor and activist Melissa Snarr uses a scholar’s tools to tell the story of the role of religion in the living wage movement in several American cities.  Snarr insightfully tells a story of local activists grounded in religious faith, Christian faith and other faiths, drawing on those resources and actually changing public policy at the local level.

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“Fair profits, Fair Interest and Fair Prices

A review of
A Worker Justice Reader:
Essential Writings on Religion and Labor

Reviewed by Stephen Lawson.

A Worker Justice Reader: Essential Writings on Religion and Labor
Readings provided by Interfaith Worker Justice and compiled by Joy Heine
Paperback: Orbis, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Over the past few years, it seems that Evangelical Christians have discovered poverty. Perhaps this discovery is the result of long overdue reflection upon the arguably dualistic core of Evangelical theology–spiritual rebirth. Perhaps, these Evangelicals read Scripture and were shocked to learn that the God who saves their souls is the same as the God who creates. Or, perhaps, in the morass of modern media, they cannot escape the guilt that the physicality of images evokes. (Certainly, this newfound concern with societal justice has its influential detractors–an infamous conspiratorial pundit is a characteristic example of this detraction.)

Now that these Evangelicals know about poverty the question remains as to how it is to be confronted and transformed. There is a desire to do something beyond donning an activist bracelet, emailing form-letters to congress, or changing the color of avatars, but no one seems to be quite sure what that should be.[1] Perhaps this is because poverty is often an ethereal concept–an idea–untouched by the dirt and dust of actual human existence. Poverty as an idea is a clear problem (lack of money and opportunity) with a clear answer is (charity and free market expansion). Not only does this idea label the symptom (lack of money and opportunity) as the underlining cause (lack of justice), it also is entirely abstracted from actual existence. What is needed is for Evangelicals to find concrete, local ways to act.

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A Review of


My River Chronicles:
Rediscovering America on the Hudson.

Jessica DuLong
Hardback: Free Press, 2009.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Mary Bowling.

Jessica DuLong left her high-rise office job for the belly of an aged fireboat. For her, it was a step removed from the virtual, and forward into a life spent amidst the tangible and tactile. It was also a step backward into the history of the Hudson River.  In her memoir, My River Chronicles, DuLong recounts stories from several worlds she has come to know; her past as an up-and-comer, her present in the engine room of the fireboat John J. Harvey, and the history of the boat itself and of the region around the Hudson.

From spending her days (and many nights as well) learning the workings and the feel of this historic vessel, DuLong has gained an appreciation of not just the boat, but of all of the circumstances surrounding the birth and life of the boat on the Hudson River. The book tells stories from many time periods, some of which are directly related to the history of the John J. Harvey. Some tell of the earliest travels made by people up the Hudson. We see what the Hudson has seen. We see explorations, military struggles, inventions and industry, as well as recreation. We see the history of America reflected in the river.

As a part of this history, we learn a lot about what goes on inside a 130 foot fireboat, or at least what went on in a fireboat in the 1930’s. DuLong shares her education with her readers; she tells of the learning that she has had in order to be able to manage as the fireboat engineer and also as captain of a historic tugboat. Some of her experiences seem enviable, and others… not so much. She is in a unique position of being female in a historically male area, and so some of her lessons learned pertain less to the workings of boats than to the people who habit them.

Jessica DuLong’s book is a clear illustration of her love of the long-lasting usefulness that characterized industry along the Hudson for the last century. Apart from the time involved in learning the skills necessary to crew on the fireboat and in digging up so much of its history, she has also been able to communicate her love vibrantly in her words. The language she uses can seem florid for so grimy a subject, but her interest is in sharing abundantly the story of a river that has given so abundantly.

 

Sustainablog Review of
Scott Sabin’s new book
Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God’s People
.

http://blog.sustainablog.org/creation-care-scott-sabin-tending-to-eden/

For the environmentalist who doesn’t ground his/her passion, advocacy, and work in faith, Tending to Eden is replete with stories of eco-effectiveness. Plant with Purpose serves rural communities in the developing world, and much of their work focuses on replenishing depleted resources that keep farmers from producing enough to feed their families and communities.

For Sabin and his organization, that often comes down to a focus on deforestation. Whether trees are cut by large, industrial-scale timber operations or by indigenous farmers clearing land for crops, or turning wood into charcoal, the results are the same: degraded soils and watersheds that make even subsistence farming nearly impossible. Various kinds of reforestation activities serve to provide food, expand economic opportunity, and allow local residents to take a longer view towards their own survival.

Read the full review:
http://blog.sustainablog.org/creation-care-scott-sabin-tending-to-eden/

Tending to Eden:
Environmental Stewardship for God’s People.

Scott Sabin.

Paperback: Judson Press, 2010.
Buy now:  [  Amaz0n ]


POWELLS BOOKS Reviews
Gabriel Thompson’s
Working in the Shadows:
A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won’t Do
.

http://www.powells.com/review/2010_02_27.html


The jobs that Gabriel Thompson writes about in Working in the Shadows: A Year Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won’t Do make even the worst jobs I’ve held seem like a month at the country club. Donning workingman’s clothes, Thompson tackles jobs that, frankly, I wouldn’t even consider before reaching a significant level of desperation. In the course of picking lettuce in the fields of Yuma, Arizona, and hauling chicken parts around a processing facility in Russellville, Alabama, (among other occupations) Thompson explores this segment of American labor like a latter-day E. P. Thompson, relating their lives and working conditions with a minimum of editorial intrusion.

Gabriel Thompson’s agenda is neither one of the white man’s burden or migrant worker agitprop. Rather, he simply takes these jobs and reveals to the reader their backbreaking and often mentally stultifying requirements, at times performed in harsh (but not inhuman) environments. After weeks of picking lettuce, Thompson hasn’t gotten that much better at the job nor gotten past the pain that bending over repeatedly in the hot sun creates as much as he has “[forgotten] what it’s like to not be sore.” While working in the frigid poultry plant, he aspires to be promoted to the de-boning department, which, while more toilsome and monotonous, is less physically demanding than hauling around buckets full of chicken remains.

Read the full review:
http://www.powells.com/review/2010_02_27.html

Working in the Shadows:
A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won’t Do
.
Gabriel Thompson.

Hardback: The Nation Books, 2009.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]


Mark Noll Reviews Patricia Ward’s
Experimental Theology in America.
on the newly redesigned BOOKS AND CULTURE website.

http://booksandculture.com/articles/webexclusives/marknoll030210.html

Patricia Ward’s meticulously researched history uncovers a surprisingly extensive vein of Protestant (usually, evangelical Protestant) engagement with the mystical piety of late 17th-century French Roman Catholics. An early leader of that engagement was John Wesley, who attended to the French mystics carefully on the question of assurance and who later excerpted works of Madame Jeanne Guyon and François Fénelon for the Christian Library he prepared so his Methodist itinerants could read while they rode. In the 19th century, appreciative readers included the Presbyterian minister William E. Boardman, the moral philosopher Thomas Upham, and the pioneering holiness preacher Phoebe Palmer. In the 20th century, A. W. Tozer included several poems of Madame Guyon in his anthology, The Christian Book of Mystical Verse, and Moody Press was one of several evangelical publishers who kept her works in print.


Read the full review:
http://booksandculture.com/articles/webexclusives/marknoll030210.html

Experimental Theology in America:
Madame Guyon, Fenelon, and Their Readers
.
Patricia A. Ward
.
Hardback: Baylor University Press, 2009
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

 

Excerpt from one of our 2009 Englewood Honor Books:

Shop Class as Soulcraft.
Matthew Crawford.

Hardback: The Penguin Press, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Read our review of this book that was written by Debra Dean Murphy.

 

“Wonder, Gratitude and Guilt”

A Review of
The Pleasures and Sorrows Of Work.
by Alain de Botton.

 Reviewed by Ragan Sutterfield.

 

The Pleasures and Sorrows Of Work.
Alain de Botton.
Hardback: Pantheon, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

The odd thing about the modern world is how little of it we think about.  We wake up under sheets manufactured in some unknown place like Mauritius, we drink coffee shipped from Latin America or Africa or Asia, we sit down to work using hundreds of bits of software and hardware that someone, somewhere created, marketed, sold, transported, bought, placed, and sold again.  And yet we think very little about who created these things and all of the people and places involved in bringing them to us.

Our own work is often a part of this same vast system in which we play one small part in a process that is far bigger than any one of us.  Unlike the workers of generation ago we usually never meet the people who made what we sell or buy what we made.  This reality has created an extremely efficient economy, creating wealth and commerce on levels never seen before, but at the same time our work has increasingly become disconnected from the very realities and interactions that make work meaningful and fulfilling.

In his new book The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work Alain de Botton delves deeply into the realities of modern labor and the complex and often alienating economy we find ourselves in.  His approach is one of unveiling the hidden undercurrents of our society and that exploration works not unlike Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time in the way in which it opens up the mind to the deeper realities of our everyday lives.  The book is accompanied with excellent photographs throughout by Richard Baker that help to punctuate and illustrate the exploration.

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“Of Philosophy and Motorcycles”

A Review of
Shop Class as Soulcraft:
An Inquiry into the Value of Work.

by Matthew Crawford.

 Reviewed by Debra Dean Murphy.

 

Shop Class as Soulcraft:
An Inquiry into the Value of Work.

Matthew Crawford
Hardback: The Penguin Press, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

If you were in high school any time before the early 1990’s you remember shop class. Or vo-ag, or industrial arts, or whatever it might have been called back in the day. You may or may not have participated in shop class but you were vaguely aware (and probably wholly uncritical) of the fact that, because of shop class, an intellectual, social, and economic divide was created, one with all sorts of implications for what kind of achievement was valued and rewarded.

 

When the promise of an information economy dawned those two decades ago, most shop classes were turned into computer labs. The nagging concern of liberal pedagogues had always been that sorting students into “college prep” or “vocational ed” tracks created and fostered a kind of educational apartheid. But this worry gave way to sunny predictions that everyone—all students everywhere—could become “knowledge workers” in the fast-approaching high-tech world of work.

 

In his new book, Shop Class as Soulcraft, Matthew Crawford narrates this history and, more importantly, its fallout for our contemporary understandings of work and the value of work. While “college prep” and “vocational ed” denoted and perpetuated a troubling form of occupational determinism, college, Crawford notes, was (and is) thought to be the “ticket to an open future.”  Craftsmanship, he says, “entails learning to do one thing really well,” while the new information-based economy celebrates “potential rather than achievement.”

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Mowing
Robert Frost

 

THERE was never a sound beside the wood but one,
And that was my long scythe whispering to the ground.
What was it it whispered? I knew not well myself;
Perhaps it was something about the heat of the sun,
Something, perhaps, about the lack of sound–
And that was why it whispered and did not speak.
It was no dream of the gift of idle hours,
Or easy gold at the hand of fay or elf:
Anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak
To the earnest love that laid the swale in rows,
Not without feeble-pointed spikes of flowers
(Pale orchises), and scared a bright green snake.
The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.
My long scythe whispered and left the hay to make.