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Project to list “Books that Shaped Work in America”

Do you know of any books that helped in “shaping American workers and workplaces”, let alone helped shape the workforce of American Samoa’s cannery and fishery industries?


If you do, the U.S. Department of Labor’s would like to hear your suggestions so books of this type can be added to the list of “Books that Shaped Work in America” project — a partnership between USDOL and the ‘Center for the Book’ in the Library of Congress.


The project is also part of USDOL’s celebration of the 100 years since it’s establishment with the Centennial committee chaired by Carl Fillichio, senior advisor for Public Affairs and Communications at USDOL, based in Washington D.C.




American Samoa’s economic backbone for decades, the canneries and fisheries have employed the territory's largest work force.  Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga told the gathering at the 50th anniversary of StarKist Samoa in August that that cannery’s entrance into the territory helped shape and change the territory’s economy and workforce.


Asked by Samoa News if books about tuna cannery/fishery industry would be a good suggestion, Fillichio said with excitement, “Absolutely!  Yes, yes, yes! We want the list to represent the depth and breadth of work in America, and that includes our territories.”


“Books focused on specific industries help paint a picture of the different cultures and communities within our larger society,” he said Friday from Washington. “Also, we hope the books on the list help elucidate what we do at the Labor Department, and these industries have a direct connection to our work, especially that of our Wage and Hour Division and Occupational Safety and Health Administration.”


“Work in the cannery and fishery industries is a big part of the history of America at work,” he declared.




Samoa News also pointed out that the military has provided job opportunities for decades for American Samoan and residents of other U.S. Pacific jurisdictions. Asked if books on this issue would be good, Fillichio said, “Yes” and noted that the military has been incredibly important and a defining aspect of work in America, whether in the context of active duty members, veterans or civilian employees.


“We have a few books on the list that touch upon these issues, but not enough, in my opinion,” he said. “In American Samoa and so many other places, the military is essential to citizens’ livelihoods, and it has clearly shaped our work force, on many levels.”


He said the goal of the project is “to educate about our work” at the Labor Department, and books with military or veterans’ themes may highlight the importance of our Veterans’ Employment and Training Service.




Asked what prompted this project for USDOL, Fillichio said the inspiration was an exhibition mounted last year by the Library of Congress called “Books that Shaped America.”


He said the number and wide diversity of books on that list that had work as a central theme really impressed upon USDOL the role that published works have played in shaping American workers and workplaces.


“So that’s how the idea for this project came about. The goal is to engage and educate the public about the Labor Department’s mission and history in conjunction with our Centennial commemoration; the Department was established in 1913. We thought this would be a ‘novel’ way to involve the citizens we serve in the marking of this milestone,” he said.


Asked about the importance and significance of this project to states and territories, he said, “We hope that citizens from all states and all territories will learn more about” what USDOL “does and consider the many ways our department and our work has impacted Americans’ lives during our 100-year existence.”


“Also, this project helps illuminate the different ways states and territories have contributed to our constantly evolving history as a nation of workers,” the senior advisor said. “The list helps reminds us of the regional variations in our workforce…” as well also illuminating the diverse voices that different “states and territories have contributed to our literary canon, from Benjamin Franklin, who was born in Massachusetts and wrote Poor Richard Improved in 1758 — before we even were a nation of states and territories — to Sonia Sotomayor, whose 2013 My Beloved World emphasizes how her Puerto Rican heritage has significantly shaped her life and career.”


 (Samoa News points out that Sotomayor is now a U.S. Supreme Court Justice).


Fillichio said the list started out with 92 entries, all recommendations from various contributors with diverse perspectives on books and/or work, including almost all former living Labor Secretaries. “We will now add to it based on public input,” he said, noting that to be added, the book needs to have had an impact on America’s workers, workplace and workforce.


“That doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be about work per se, but rather have shaped how it is viewed or, in some cases, addressed through public policy,” he said, adding for  Examples of books on the initial list range widely, from Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations to Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique to Gabriel Thompson’s Working in the Shadows.


“We have fiction, non-fiction, plays and even a few children’s books, one of my favorites being Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy Town, which was contributed by [current] Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez.  Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman is also on the list. 


“I’d love to see the public suggest more poetry, as well,” he said.