I am delighted to introduce the CUNY/New York Times in Education 2016 calendar, Working People, a history of labor in the United States. Published in a time of rapid changes in the very nature of employment in America, it is a timely and welcome opportunity to explore the complex, pervasive, and often forgotten role of workers and to celebrate their sacrifices and triumphs. In an increasingly impersonal, technological era, this calendar reminds us that work has many human faces and meanings. Labor has always struggled with and for the soul of America.. read more

James B. Milliken
Chancellor

Building

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I would like to see a building, say, the Empire State. I would like to see on one side of it a foot-wide strip from top to bottom with the name of every bricklayer, the name of every electrician, with all the names. So when a guy walked by, he could take his son and say, “See, that’s me over there on the forty-fifth floor. I put the steel beam in.” Picasso can point to a painting. What can I point to? A writer can point to a book. Everybody should have something to point to.

Mike Lefevre, steel mill worker

Artists

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“This world is but a canvas to our imagination”.

Henry David Thoreau, poet and philosopher

 

As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For people hear us singing, “Bread and roses! Bread and roses!”

James Oppenheim, Bread and Roses, 1912

She took a bundle and she cut the string. And when you open the bundle, it is a thousand pieces. And all these pieces, you put them together and you make a beautiful dress. The operator on dresses is an engineer.

Julia Benicci, garment worker

John Henry was a railroad man,
He worked from six ’till five,
“Raise ’em up bullies and let ’em drop down,
I’ll beat you to the bottom or die.”

John Henry said to his captain:
“You are nothing but a common man,
Before that steam drill shall beat me down,
I’ll die with my hammer in my hand.”

John Henry said to the Shakers:
“You must listen to my call,
Before that steam drill shall beat me down,
I’ll jar these mountains till they fall.”

John Henry’s captain said to him:
“I believe these mountains are caving in.”
John Henry said to his captain: “Oh, Lord!”
“That’s my hammer you hear in the wind.”

John Henry he said to his captain:
“Your money is getting mighty slim,
When I hammer through this old mountain,
Oh Captain will you walk in?”

John Henry’s captain came to him
With fifty dollars in his hand,
He laid his hand on his shoulder and said:
“This belongs to a steel driving man.”

John Henry was hammering on the right side,
The big steam drill on the left,
Before that steam drill could beat him down,
He hammered his fool self to death.

John Henry, African-American folk hero and “steel-driving man.”

Organizing

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We mean to make things over.
We’re tired of toil for naught
But bare enough to live on.
Never an hour for thought.

We want to feel the sunshine;
We want to smell the flowers.
We’re sure that God has willed it,
And we mean to have eight hours.

We’re summoning our forces
From shipyard, shop and mill:
Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest,
Eight hours for what we will!

G. Blanchard & Jesse Henry Jones, Eight-Hours

Extracting

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The miners lost because they only had the Constitution. The other side had bayonets. In the end, bayonets always win.

Mother Jones, labor organizer

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ‘cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store.

Merle Travis, Sixteen Tons, 1946

People really admire firefighters. People look up to us. They want their kids to talk to us. We’re the ones who help everyone. It doesn’t matter what time of day or night, how rich or how poor they are, what color they are. We go into their houses and risk our lives to save them… When you finish up, you know you have helped people.

Brenda Berkman, lieutenant, Ladder 12, Manhattan

The policeman on the beat or in the patrol car makes more decisions and exercises broader discretion affecting the daily lives of people every day and to a greater extent, in many respects, than a judge will ordinarily exercise in a week.

 Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Warren Burger

Teaching is our heart. Our students are our soul. And the union is our spine. President Randi Weingarten, AFT

Education is more than a right – – it is a need, as essential to human survival as food and shelter. As an education union, the PSC is about challenging a society that actively denies education on the basis of race and class.

President Barbara Bowen, PSC

The truth is that New York’s public schools are strong and healthy, and where schools ARE struggling, it’s because children live in poverty. That’s something we can’t test our way out of. But you know what? We can teach our way out of it.

President Karen E. Magee, NYSUT

Helping people is what we do; it’s the very essence of our work. We want to help our students be successful learners and productive citizens and so we go above and beyond every day to provide them with the very best education possible.

President Michael Mulgrew, UFT

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I have to be a waitress. How else can I learn about people? How else does the world come to me? I can’t go to everyone. So they have to come to me. Everyone wants to eat; everyone has hunger. And I serve them. If they had a bad day, I nurse them, cajole them.
Maybe with the coffee I give them a bit of philosophy. If they have cocktails, I give them political science… I can’t be servile. I give
service. There is a difference… — Dolores Dante, waitress

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Agriculture

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The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.

Cesar Chavez, farm worker and labor leader

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Once I built a railroad, made it run, made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad; now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once I built a tower, up to the sun–brick, and rivet, and lime;
Once I built a tower, now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

It is a public outrage that there are men out of work when there is plenty of work that needs to be done.

Fred Harris, U.S. Senator from Oklahoma

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When you are a nurse, you know that every day you will touch a life or a life will touch yours.

Anonymous

I may be compelled to face danger, but never fear it, and while our soldiers stand and fight, I can stand and feed and nurse them.

Clara Barton, pioneering nurse

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Most people think “selling” is the same as “talking.” But the most effective salespeople know that listening is the most important part of the job.

Roy Bartell, internet marketer

Nobody dast blame this man. You don’t understand: Willy was a salesman. And for a salesman, there’s no rock bottom to the life. He don’t put a bolt to a nut, he don’t tell you the law or give you medicine. He’s a man way out there in the blue riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back – that’s an earthquake. And then you get yourself a couple spots on your hat and you’re finished. Nobody dast blame this man. A salesman is got to dream boy, it comes with the territory.

Charley, in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

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Finance

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The trading floor, it was a place for regular guys, guys who didn’t necessarily have a talent for anything or an education that was specific to this business to take advantage of their aggressiveness and their ability to think on their feet.

Peter “Zap” Chelemengos, Chicago Mercantile Exchange floor trader