Stories on the lives, histories, memories, and resistance of Rust Belt workers

The Rust Belt is known for industry—after all, it gets its name from the chemical deterioration of metal beams and smokestacks. But too often this notion becomes an abstraction, void of the human beings doing work. On Labor Day, and everyday, we want to center the voices and stories of the workers—in factories, on farms, in the service industry, or elsewhere—who make our region what it is. Below is a collection of some of our favorite pieces about the power, degradation, and resistance of workers. Happy Labor Day, and solidarity forever!

-Raechel Anne Jolie, Engagement Editor


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Histories of Labor

“A History of Cleveland’s Garment Industry” 
By Anne Trubek

“King Coal and the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum”
By Carolyne Whelan

“Wisconsin’s Black Farming Tradition” 
By Kynala Phillips

“East Chicago’s Failed Utopian Visions” 
By Emiliano Aguilar

“When Socialists Swept Milwaukee”
By Lindsey Anderson


“My Summer of Steel”
By Bob Zeni

“The Spirit of Sam Jones”
By Bob Campbell

“What It’s Like to Be a Farmworker During Covid 19” 
By Francisco Velazquez and Michelle Kanaar

“My Father, the Nuclear Plant, and Me”
By Melissa Ballard

“Losing the Farm” 
By Ryan Schnurr

Labor Relations 

“The Rubber Industry’s Toxic Legacy in Akron” 
By Yanick Rice Lamb

The Restoration of Maxo Vanko’s Working-Class, Immigrant Murals
By Margaret Shakespeare

“Give Your Money to Mary Lane”
By Katie Prout

Losing Lordstown
By Vince Guerrieri

“A Complicated Heritage of Coal” 
By Julia Rendleman

Organizing For the Future

“Labor Lessons from the Flint Sit Down Strike” 
By Edward McClelland

“The Most Dangerous People in the Country” 
By Jeffrey Webb

“Building the ‘Black to Green’ Pipeline”
By Audrey Henderson

West Virginians Are Reinventing Broken Foodways”
By Annie Chester

“Worker-Owned Cooperatives and the Future of the Rust Belt” 
By Raechel Anne Jolie


“The Moral Power of Rust Belt Labor”
By Connor Coyne 



Cover image via Flickr (creative commons).

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