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