International Workers’ Day or May Day as it is often called, is a day celebrating labourers and the working classes. Although May Day can be traced back several centuries, the Haymarket Affair is generally considered to be significant as the origin of IWD. In the late 19th century, working conditions would be severe with 10 – 16-hour work days in unsafe conditions. Death and injury in these conditions would be common. In this context, workers started organizing for 8-hour workdays without decrease in pay. The Haymarket Affair started as a peaceful rally in Chicago with workers demanding eight-hour work days. It became chaotic once an unidentified person threw a bomb into the crowd. This resulted in police and worker deaths, and labour activists being rounded up with little evidence linking them to the bomb. The aftermath of the trials resulted in generations of labour leaders, activists and organizers around the world using this day to celebrate worker strength and unity.
This display features OISE Library books that relate to several contemporary labour issues—with a particular focus on Canadian unions and teacher rights. This selection also tries to reflect on whom we typically consider to be workers and looks at diverse texts that talk about care labour, household labour, sex work and many other topics.
Teacher unions in public education : politics, history, and the future was edited by OISE Faculty member Prof. Nina Bascia. This book looks at the important role that teacher unions can play in defending public education, as well as educational policies. The chapters look at topics such as the history of teacher unions and the surrounding discourse, the historical gender relations that informed teacher associations, and the evolving union strategies in the current globalized neoliberal context. Although, the book does not idealize these unions, it also challenges mainstream views that encourage reducing the power of teacher unions.
More work for mother : the ironies of household technology from the open hearth to the microwave by Ruth Schwartz Cowan is a classic that continues to be relevant today. Cowan traces the history of household technologies by looking at the way machines such as washing machines, vacuums, stoves and even white flour were supposed to make the lives of middle-class women easier. However, the liberatory promises of these gadgets remained unfulfilled as these machines mainly replaced the labour that men and children did, and women found themselves still doing just as much work, if not more, to keep up with rising standards and expectations. Although this book was written in the 80s, it serves to be a timeless cautionary tale about so-called labour and time saving technologies and to be more mindful of the implications that they may have on various types of workers.
The book Filipinos in Canada: Disturbing Invisibility edited by Roland Sintos Coloma is the “first wide-ranging edited collection on Filipinos in Canada.” With the Philippines being Canada’s largest source of short and long-term migrants, this book explores migrant labour alongside other topics that are relevant to the Filipino communities such as gender relations, deprofessionalization, stereotypes and representation, as well as community resistance. The title references the way certain tropes affecting the migrant workers are hypervisibilized while other issues affecting the community remain invisible.
If you’d like to check out these books, or see the other books relating to International Workers’ Day, you can find this display, on top of the New Titles shelf that is across the Reference and Circulation Desk. You can also find printed copies of the list with call number information for all of the books on display.