The Best Articles on Workers Rights


The February Revolution, the Winter of Discontent, the Textile Workers Strike of 1934... strikes and workers fight for rights have shaped our modern society.

Below we have dug through our ten year archive to bring you articles on the close of a deep coal mine, the price of a manicure, delivery worker revolt, seasonal workers as America's the new hobos, journalists stuck in content mills, and a reconsideration of the luddites.


The Last Days Of Big K

Martin Fletcher | New Statesman | 4th November 2015

Britain's last deep coal-mine, at Kellingley in Yorkshire, will close by Christmas. Its customers, big power-stations, have switched to biomass and imported coal. British coal never recovered from the miners' strike of 1984-85. The National Union of Miners is down from half-a-million to 800 members. "Thirty years ago there were collieries all over South Yorkshire. Today scarcely a trace of them remains" (3,050 words)


The Price Of Nice Nails

Sarah Maslin Nir | New York Times | 9th May 2015 | B

The number of nail salons in New York City has tripled in 15 years, while prices have been driven down to half the national average, thanks to ruthless salon owners who exploit new immigrant workers by paying them next to nothing and sometimes charging them for the privilege of working. Your obliging manicurist may well be earning $10 a day, if she is new to the job — before deductions for training and rent. Tip well! (5,870 words)


Revolt Of The Delivery Workers

Josh Dzieza | Verge | 13th September 2021 | U

Action-packed account of the difficult lives of food-delivery workers in New York. "Delivery workers now move faster than just about anything else in the city. They keep pace with cars and weave between them when traffic slows, ever vigilant for opening taxi doors and merging trucks. They know they go too fast, but it’s a calculated risk. Slowing down means being punished by the apps" (7,800 words)


Sugar Days

Sierra Crane-Murdoch | VQR | 1st April 2015

Life among America's new hoboes, the marginal workers drifting between seasonal jobs handling fish in Alaska, marijuana in California, sugar beet in North Dakota. "A familiar typology is that hoboes wander to find work, tramps work only to facilitate wandering, and bums neither wander nor work. There is, perhaps, another important delineation — between those who work for a way into society and those who work for a way out" (5,300 words)


How Much Do You Bring To The Table, Content Human?

Matt Buchanan | The Awl | 29th September 2015

Essentially just a list of revenue per employee at different digital media firms. In summary, on the "new media" side, Business Insider: $132,300 in revenue per employee; Buzzfeed: $208,333 per employee; Gawker: $211,538 per employee; Vox: $252,000 per employee; Vice: $457,500 per employee. Perhaps surprisingly, on the "old media" side, New York Times:  $450,000 per employee; Time Inc.: $417,000 employee (490 words)


The World Henry Ford Made

Justin Vassallo | Boston Review | 14th October 2020

Henry Ford had the possibly unique distinction of being equally revered in capitalist America, fascist Germany, and communist Russia. Hitler and Stalin alike coveted the methods of mass production perfected in Ford's US factories. They saw in Fordism a system which "turned lack of skill into a productive resource" while also serving to keep workers disciplined and dependent (4,300 words)


The Idea Of Work, From Below

Joel Suarez | JHI Blog | 6th September 2021 | U

Labour historian reviews several books about the future of work. There is now greater interest in unionisation among knowledge workers, but it is the plight of support staff like cleaners and cooks that is more indicative of economic trends. Post-pandemic, they are starting to push back: "Business owners call this a labour shortage. Workers might call this a tiny glimpse of labour power" (4,303 words)


Man Versus Machine, Again

Tim Harford | Financial Times | 13th March 2015 | U

The Luddites were skilled textile workers who correctly foresaw that factory automation in the early 19th century would weaken their own bargaining power by enabling factory owners to use less skilled labour. They were not simpletons who thought that machines would destroy jobs in general. The Luddite view remains a useful starting point for considering how intelligent robotics may affect jobs in the future (790 words)


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Want more? From our friends at Five Books, five recommended books on migrant workers:

Migrant Workers
The best books to understand the central role of migrant workers to American history, as recommended by Professor Mireya Loza.

Elsewhere on the Browser, see: The Reader, our daily commonplace book of clippings and quotations; Notes, our occasional blog; Academia, our Browser formula applied to research papers; Interviews, our conversations with fascinating people.


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