Labor Department Picks Books That Shaped American Jobs For the Department of Labor's centennial celebration, Carl Fillichio thought outside the box and asked the public for books that influenced work in America. The usual suspects are there — Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and What Color is Your Parachute — but also some oddball choices from children's literature and poetry. Fillichio gives NPR's Jennifer Ludden highlights from the ongoing project.
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Labor Department Picks Books That Shaped American Jobs

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Labor Department Picks Books That Shaped American Jobs


Paid leave is just one of the ways American workplaces have improved over the past century. That's how long the U.S. Department of Labor has been in operation - since President William Taft signed it into being in 1913. For its centenary, the Department of Labor is celebrating through literature. It's asking the public and government officials to share books that say something about the evolving state of the U.S. worker. Carl Fillichio is the man behind the Books that Shaped Work in America Project. He joins us now. Welcome.

CARL FILLICHIO: I'm happy to be here.

LUDDEN: So, some of the books on your list are really surprising. Give me an example of a book someone may never have thought of as being about labor.

FILLICHIO: One of the first books I mention is "Little Women," which came out more than 100 years ago and introduced us to a concept that's very important at work, and that's being ambitious.

LUDDEN: So, these books do not have to be set in an office or a factory?

FILLICHIO: No. They have to basically shape your or the public's opinion of work, workplaces or workers. So, there are obvious choices, like the jungle, for example, which has a huge impact in food inspections, in worker health and safety and wages. And so that was an obvious book.

LUDDEN: You have children's books on here.

FILLICHIO: I think it was very important to put children's books on the list because it's a way to teach the idea that work has dignity and has value. So, I was very pleased, for example, that the current Labor secretary, Tom Perez, put Richard Scarry's "Busy, Busy Town," on the list.

LUDDEN: There you go.

FILLICHIO: A great book.

LUDDEN: What do you want to be when you grow up, honey?

FILLICHIO: Absolutely. And there are great books like "Click Clack Moo," which I think should be required reading for anybody who's in...

LUDDEN: For the worker's revolt from the barnyard.

FILLICHIO: the labor management arena. Any HR director, I think, needs to read "Click Clack Moo."

LUDDEN: Do you have a personal favorite on the list?

FILLICHIO: "Moby Dick." It's about this guy whose job is to catch the whale. The workplace is the boat. And it's all about his drive, his determination, office politics, if you will, and a result.

LUDDEN: In a very small office out there in the sea.

FILLICHIO: In a very small office, yeah.

LUDDEN: So, we are coming to the end of the year here. Is it the end of the list?

FILLICHIO: No. This is a project that is going to keep going, keep growing. It's a great way to learn about the mission, the work, the resources of the U.S. Department of Labor and what it can do for you.

LUDDEN: Carl Fillichio. He compiled Books that Shaped Worked in America. It's a centennial celebration for the U.S. Department of Labor. Thank you very much.

FILLICHIO: My pleasure. Thank you.

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