From the Labor Front

photo(58)From the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston

The beginning of one of the few three-day long American weekends is starting tonight. In the same way Memorial Day marks the unofficial summer kick off, Labor Day signs the end of the summer season.

Both holidays, however, mean much more than a day on the beach or a BBQ in our backyards.

Labor Day, always celebrated on the first Monday in September in the United States, is first a public holiday that honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers bring to the prosperity of this country.

What the French is the American labor movement?  may ask many young Americans. Starting with my own kids.

In 2016, more and more people work independently, seeking the pursuit of their professional goals outside big corporations. Working for a company, big or small, and for a boss is no longer a requirement. The fact that many of us can work remotely has increased our professional independence. This independence has a cost since independent work means working without the protective umbrella of a company.

In 2016, less educated people or with skills that are no longer sought after must often cumulate small jobs to make ends meet. These jobs more often than not come without benefits.

The current deep political divide in the US shows how we differ on the kind of world we want to put together. Mostly what’s dividing us is the kind of world progressive people want to create versus the kind of the world conservatives want to build.

But in our definition of a perfect world we rarely talk anymore about the working middle class.

It seems to me that the reason why numerous Americans don’t embrace the presidential candidates with the fervor and hope we witnessed in 2008, for example, is the lack of empathy from the candidates for the working middle class.

Often I dream to write about the people who wonder who is making them hungry. In the story they would finally find out and get really angry.

Then, I figure I would be Zola and write Germinal.

photo(48)A corner of our family Maine cottage

Meanwhile, I read as many books as I can and write my to-read list for the shorter days of the fall.

Still Life With Tornado (October)

By A S King

A new young adult novel by one of the best, also one of my favorite authors in the genre. In this story A S King explores everyday abuse and survival. Currently waiting for my signed copy from the lovely Aaron’s Books in Lititz, PA. Yeah!

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day

By John David Anderson

A middle grade novel set in the sixth grade (a class my grad student daughter is currently teaching in San Diego) that tells of three troubled boys and their teacher who believes in them. Remember that teacher you never forgot? Not the mean one or the boring one. The one who looked at you. Really. And told you you mattered? That’s Ms. Bixby. And my young daughter who is considering to teach English, a field where unions still matter.

Draw the Line

By Laurent Linn

First young adult novel from this author, also an art director for children and yound adults’ books. Set in Texas, an adolescent boy realizes that despite the potential danger to stand up for his beliefs, it’s not always possible to remain quiet and invisible.

Garvey’s Chance (October)

By Nikki Grimes

From the queen of stories written in verse, a middle grade novel about a young African American boy searching for himself, between parental and societal expectations.


By Sharon Creech

From the Newbery Medal recipient, a middle grade novel set in Maine where Sharon Creech also resides.  I discovered her work through my daughters. Now, I cannot pass a novel set in Maine.

Saving Red (October)

By Sonya Sones

Another verse novel from another favorite of mine.  In Saving Red Sonya Sones tackles the topics of homelessness, runaways and mental illness.

From my humble labor front, I am currently seeking publication for my latest Young Adult novel while writing a new one and also discovering my new computer since my beloved McBook Air fell ill after many years of loyal services. My husband cared for it, but alas his geeky talents couldn’t cure it. So I just got a shiny new machine, a McBook Pro this time. A little heavier than the Air but with a better screen definition. Exploring its possibilities…

 IMG_2314Balboa Park, San Diego, CA

Wherever you are, enjoy your Labor Day weekend!


  1. Garry and I were talking about the Labor Movement last night. Garry was the shop steward for his union for some years and he’s very much a union guy. I think most Americans, especially the young ones, have no idea how very much they owe those labor movement folks for basic stuff like paid vacations, overtime, minimum wage, and so very much more. I can’t even imagine how awful it would be without the work of the unions.

    • I so agree with you, Marilyn. My dad was also a union leader in France and I vividly remember the discussions going on in my childhood’s kitchen after the meeting. It’s seems that union has become a bad word over the years while the role of unions can improve people’s working conditions. Enjoy your weekend!

  2. I love Sonia Sones & look forward to reading her book soon. Enjoy the weekend.

  3. That’s what we’re celebrating here in Canada too this weekend 🙂

  4. The labor battles still rage for low income workers trying to obtain a living wage. I remember my dad talking about the 30s when so many of the original battles were fought by the AFL/CIO. To most folks today, sadly, Labor Day weekend in simply another three day holiday. –Curt

    • Agree with you, Curt. It’s too bad that we forget that many things we take for granted are the results of tough negotiations and battles. I certainly believe in the need to protect people’s working conditions. Without it we simply allow anything and everything. But even in my native France where syndicats (unions) used to be powerful they are losing members who don’t believe in their need as strongly as before. I imagine the discussions you must have had with your dad. The 30s certainly opened the door to much deserved change. Thanks for stopping by. Hope you are doing well.

  5. Behind the Story says:

    First of all, just let me say, I’m a sucker for lily pads and ducks or lotus and coi.

    Regarding unions: My dad, a carpenter, liked to work alone or with a partner or assistant. He was a proud, unassuming, self-sufficient guy who thought union carpenters didn’t work as hard as he did. (Few people worked as hard as he did.) On the other hand, his Irish uncles joined the labor movement in Canada, for which (I believe) they were deported. Their love for unions may have been mixed up with politics.

    At some points in history, labor unions can over-reach. Now, however, with income inequality at such extremes, I think unions need to increase their power. But then, as you say, there are all these people who work alone or have more than one job and have no chance to join a union.

    • I remember several of your posts about your dad and his hardworking ethics, so I totally agree with your comments since I’ve worked for big companies and on my own. Self-employment provides great freedom and it’s a good feeling to be in charge. But it doesn’t work for everyone. So, yes, unions matter as they serve as a buffer between workers and employers. Unfortunately, it is true that some unions (here and in France) have over-reached, triggering less interest from people. A right balance again is key. See you on your blog, Nicki.

  6. As a freelance editor, I think about these things a lot. Yes, the freedom from rigid schedules and less-than-wonderful workplaces is good, but the downside is that we’re isolated from each other and we have no clout beyond what we can negotiate with each client one on one. Camaraderie and continuing education we can find online, but collective bargaining — no. We’re part of what has been called the “Task Rabbit economy”: hordes of self-employed workers bidding for relatively few jobs and pushing the wage (or fee) lower and lower, with minimal protection against exploitation.

    Individual rights and “rugged individualism” (I just mistyped “rigged individualism” — and thought of leaving it that way 🙂 ) are part of the USian ethos, but really, most of the big advances in this country have been achieved by working together — abolition, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, and of course the labor movement. Forget that and your only hope is to follow a savior figure who promises a better future with no workable path to get there. Which we’ve seen a lot of in the presidential election campaign. Fortunately, at least where I am, things look better on the ground. There are several excellent candidates running for state rep and state senator in my district. Quite a few are in their twenties or early thirties and they’ve all got solid experience under their belts already.

    • So much in agreement with your comment, Susanna. I like your “USian ethos” and the mistyped “rigged” and the “Task Rabbit economy,” too. We live in a complex world with so many people competing for a job that it has forced us to create our own jobs. If you think of the more recent Uber, Lift and Airbnb for example, what are they but new ways to make money away from traditional paths? In all honesty, I have mixed feelings about them. And yes, our current political discourse is screwed and if anyone believes it’s better to live without any work labor protection, the same people will again and again benefit. Agree that local candidates have a bigger impact. Lucky you to have young candidates. They see the world with more open eyes and I trust them to make us move in a more progressive way. Thank you again for your thoughtful comment, Susanna.

  7. An important post, Evelyne. Too many people forget how we got weekends, let alone the fine details of labor laws.
    I did have a lovely Labor Day weekend, and hope you did the same 🙂

    • Thank you, Joey. We tend to forget how we got somewhere. I do remember when my dad had only Sunday off. France was ahead for vacations in comparison to the US. It was a shock when we moved here. But the US is better to fight sexual harrassement in the work place and equal pay.
      I spent a quiet but nice Labor Day weekend and I’m glad you did too. Enjoy the fall season!


  1. […] would rewrite a post I did a few years ago. Then I realized that I did that last year. Then I read Evelyne Holingue’s post and I thought, “Well, at least someone else is thinking about this” so I decided to face this […]

  2. […] would rewrite a post I did a few years ago. Then I realized that I did that last year. Then I read Evelyne Holingue’s post and I thought, “Well, at least someone else is thinking about this” so I decided to face this […]

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