Your Labor Day Reading and Watchlist

The time has come. A flat, blue sky presses overhead, a few greedy leaves begin to wilt on their branches, and there is the slightest coolness carried by the lazy afternoon breezes that can only mean a thing: summer is ending.

And in its annual death knell, another Labor Day weekend is upon us.

As some of us run away en masse by the lake, at barbecues or in air-conditioned apartments that (for a few days) are just homes rather than hybrid offices, what better way to relax than by enjoying a good read combined with a good movie?

We’ve put together a list of Chicago and distributed titles paired with must-see movies, all focused on this weekend’s theme: work.

Democratizing work: arguments in favor of a reorganization of the economy by Isabelle Ferreras, Julie Battilana and Dominique Méda & sorry to disturb you (2018)

In this collection, a dozen social scientists, all women, explore how we can reform our workplaces to create more egalitarian structures between employer and employee, organization and individual, democracy and economy. By recognizing that capitalism has surpassed democracy and resolving to treat workers as citizens, Democratize work explains how we can correct the power imbalance that has marred so many work environments.

A blend of dark comedy, surrealism, and sci-fi, Sorry to Bother You centers on troubled young Cassius “Cash” Green. Cash gets a job as a telemarketer and quickly rises after an older black colleague tells him that the secret to success is to use a “white voice”. The more successful Cash gets, the closer he gets to the seedy, evil underbelly of the company.

Ultimately, sorry to disturb you descends into a nightmare where Cash is caught in a literal war between enslaved workers and CEOs who seek to subjugate them for profit.

Democratize work is a perfectly timed examination of what it means to be a worker in the aftermath of Covid-19. sorry to disturb you taps into this constant struggle between managers and their subordinates, its finale being what happens when bosses abstract their workers to such an extent that they no longer see them as human beings. Taken together, these works bear witness to the longevity of these debates and call for a work revolution.

Unworking: reinventing the modern office by Jeremy Myerson and Philip Ross & 9 to 5 (1980)

Cart. Lily. Joan.

There’s not much more to say about this absurd comedy classic. As three female workers fight their bigoted sexist, selfish, lying, and hypocritical boss, they enact the kind of reform that stems from the idea that every worker is an individual worthy of accommodation, understanding, and respect.

9 to 5 is a snapshot of the same issues discussed in Unemployment transposed to another time. The trio of women forge ahead in the new reality of work, one where the presence of women was no longer new but still rooted in the sexist ideals of yesteryear. To bring their office into the modern age, they must implement reforms that are still often discussed today.

Fighting financial crises: learning from the past by Gary B. Gorton and Ellis W. Tallman & The Capture of Pelham 123 (1974)

Authors Gary Gorton and Ellis Tallman shed light on the connections between past financial disasters and modern economic panics. By examining how institutions such as the Federal Reserve and the SEC have handled such crises (successfully or not), the authors deepen our understanding of how our modern economy works.

Can you honestly say you’ve ever had such a tough day at the office or such a hellish commute as any of the characters in this adrenaline-fuelled 70s movie?

The film centers on the New York Transit Authority (led by a suitably stressed Walter Matthau) as they deal with the hijacking of the titular subway train by a gang of robbers (led by a superhumanly calm Robert Shaw) holding New York City for a ransom. Not only must the Transit Authority press the thieves’ demands with the mayor’s office, but it must also continue to exploit and sort out the transit disaster before them to keep New York City from shutting down.

As we cut between the bustling office and the sheer panic of the kidnapped subway car, the viewer gets an eye on an impoverished and collapsing New York in the 1970s. Fighting Financial Crises contextualizes financial events just like the near bankruptcy of the Big Apple and its effects on citizens. The Taking of Pelham 123 not only shows the difficulty of dealing with personalities in the workplace, but also how two men, one a cog in the office and the other a hardy freelancer, navigate economic uncertainty.

Red Light Labour: sex work regulation, agency and resistance edited by Elya M. Durisin, Emily van der Meulen and Chris Bruckert & Mandarin (2015)

In 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada enacted specific laws that criminalized sex work as an unconstitutional violation of individual rights. The laws were later overturned, opening the door to new legislation surrounding the exchange of money for sex. Told from the perspective of sex workers, activists, researchers and legal experts, Red light work questions North American attitudes towards the sex industry and how it seeks to control those who operate within it.

Shot entirely on an iPhone, Mandarin follows transgender sex worker Sin-Dee Rella on her odyssey through Los Angeles as she tracks down her pimp and fiancé, Chester, after learning he’s having an affair. As chaos erupts around her, the framework of Sin-Dee’s life crumbles, underscored by the brutal reality of trying to make a living in a criminal realm.

Mandarin is a heartfelt story of what it’s like to work in a profession that constantly puts you under a microscope – whether from the law, the opinion of others, or an ever-green moral debate for the talking heads of television . Red light work dispels myths surrounding the sex industry by allowing those who live and work in its sphere to speak about their experiences; in doing so, the reader better understands the obstacles that sex workers endure in trying to protect themselves from violence, exploitation and legal retaliation.

After the Flood: How the Great Recession Changed Economic Thinking edited by Edward L. Glaeser, Tano Santos and E. Glen Weyl & The big court (2015)

Over the past few decades, economic crises have spread across the world. From Japan to Europe to the United States, it was a time marked by economic uncertainty that caused surges and depressions in job opportunities for the average citizen. After the Flood is a collection of writings by scholars and researchers that discuss how we can better understand the magnitude of the impact of crises on global markets, how to respond to them more effectively, and adapt research to better understand them.

Through its fast-paced, intertwining storylines The big court recounts the fictional group that forecast and then profited from the 2008 economic recession caused by the housing market bubble. The story begins with the hedge fund manager seeing the impending collapse and following how he translates disaster into financial windfall once the bubble bursts.

The big court raises important questions about work ethics. What does it mean if, in your work, your success comes at the cost of the suffering of others? The characters in this film work or study in the same industries as the contributors to After the Flood and their actions betray a realism of what one faces in such dilemmas.


All these books are available on our website or our favorite Bookseller.


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