Working in America
Working in America is a multi-platform documentary initiative chronicling the everyday challenges, triumphs and realities of working. Within the common thread that everyone has a relationship to work, this powerful visual and audio initiative is inspired by the 40th anniversary of Studs Terkel’s influential publication, Working, as a springboard for a contemporary conversation about the meaning of work and the physical and psychological realities of working in America today. This original project was developed by Project& and the Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer and Project& Fellow, Lynsey Addario, and in January 2016 received a prestigious MacArthur grant for documentary and interactive projects.
Working in America is comprised of:
Traveling Library Exhibition
The heart of Working in America is an exhibition documenting workers from across the United States. We’re collaborating with the Pulitzer-prize winning photographer and Project& Fellow Lynsey Addario, who will capture the images of veterans, janitors, tech and finance entrepreneurs, farmers, athletes, oil field workers, artists, domestic caregivers, and more. The curated exhibition of images and stories will be in a traveling installation that is being designed by renowned architect Jeanne Gang and Studio Gang Architects. Launching at Chicago’s famed Harold Washington Library in September 2016, the exhibition will travel to city libraries across the United States.
Working Then and Now: A Radio Series
Jane M. Saks of Project& has partnered with Joe Richman of Radio Diaries to co-produce the never-before-heard field recordings of the people Studs Terkel interviewed for his influential book, Working. The radio series, “Working Then and Now,” will be broadcast on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” Project&—working with The Studs Terkel Radio Archives, Chicago History Museum, and the Library of Congress—has been given unprecedented and exclusive access to the never-before-heard field recordings Terkel conducted for his book. “Working Then and Now” expands on these recordings with current interviews with those he interviewed 40 years ago. The radio series will reflect upon the dramatically changing American working landscape, charting the decline of the manufacturing industry and the rise of the “gig economy” alike, knowing that Terkel’s research remains more relevant today than ever.
Working Then and Now – Series airing on NPR
Co-produced Project&/Radio Diaries
In the early 1970s, Terkel went around the country, tape recorder in hand, interviewing people about their jobs. He collected more than 130 interviews for his seminal book, Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. “Working” struck a nerve, because it elevated the stories of ordinary people and their daily lives. After the book came out, the cassettes were packed away and stored in Terkel’s home office. Now Project& and Radio Diaries are co-producing the series with these never-before-heard field interviews to air on NPR – along with interviews with some of the same subjects today.
The series will also explore Studs Terkel’s quirks and interviewing style, what made the book unique and popular 40 years ago, and how ideas about work in American life have changed in the years since.
Stories will run from Sept 25 – October 2 across NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Weekend All Things Considered, featuring audio portraits from Terkel’s original recordings, along with some interviews with the same subjects today. Stations and broadcast times are available on npr.org/stations. The Radio Diaries Podcast will also release a mini-series of episodes featuring all the stories, dropping on 9/26, 10/4, and 10/11. Working: Then & Now is a Radio Diaries co-production with Project& and a component of the “Working in America” initiative, a nationally traveling photo exhibition with photos taken of 24 individuals by Pulitzer Prize photographer Lynsey Addario and an online archive, Your Working Story, of workers in the US today with lead support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and additional support from the Ford Foundation, Surdna Foundation, Lambent Foundation, Reva and David Logan Foundation and HP Inc.
Here is a list of the upcoming stories.
Jockey – Eddie Arroyo; Weekend All Things Considered,
Eddie Arroyo grew up wanting to play basketball, but at five feet and 108 pounds he was better built to be a jockey. When he was first interviewed by Studs Terkel in 1971, Arroyo had been racing for 6 years. He said it was the hardest – and most dangerous – job he’d ever had. His best friend was paralyzed from the waist down, and Arroyo himself was trampled by a horse. Arroyo was inducted into the Chicago Sports Hall of Fame. Today he still works in the racing industry at the Arlington Race Track, where part of his contemporary interview was recorded.
Car Parker – Lovin’ Al Pommier; Morning Edition
Lovin’ Al Pommier talked to Studs Terkel about the tips and tricks of parking cars in Chicago, while they smoked cigars inside a car.
Phone Operator – Sharon Griggins; All Things Considered
Sharon Griggins was 17 years old and working for Illinois Bell as a telephone operator when she was interviewed by Studs Terkel. For a job that required talking to people all day long, Sharon tells Studs that it’s a remarkably lonely profession. Today, Sharon is the Director of Communications at the Seattle Public Library Foundation.
Ad Executive – Judy Saylor; Morning Edition
Barbara Herrick was a young advertising executive in Chicago. As the “token woman” in a male-dominated industry, Saylor carefully navigated every professional interaction. She fielded sexual advances from married colleagues, put up with misogynistic jokes from clients, and fought to prove that she was not just the face, but the brains behind her work. Saylor was attractive and successful, two qualities that she said seemed to be inextricably intertwined.
Auto Repair/Family Business – Duke and Lee Singer; All Things Considered
Duke Singer and his son Lee opened an auto repair service station in Geneva, Illinois in the late 1960’s. Unlike his father, Lee worked hard to separate work-life from home-life. When he was interviewed by Studs at the age of 23, he expressed some regret about joining the family business. Today, Lee Singer is 68 and still runs the family auto repair/body shop. Except now he works with his son Scott and grandson Austin. And many of the same father-son tensions are playing out in the next generation.
Police Officer – Renault Robinson; Morning Edition
Renault Robinson was an officer in the Chicago Police Department when he was first interviewed by Studs Terkel in 1971. As one of the few black police officers on the force, Robinson spoke openly and bluntly about the role of race in urban policing. Robinson was later part of a lawsuit against the Chicago police force for discrimination, which effectively ended his career as a police officer. In his contemporary interview Robinson expreses frustration with how little has changed in 40 years.
Hotel Piano Player – Hots Michaels; All Things Considered
Hots Michael was interviewed by Studs Terkel while entertaining guests at the Hotel Sherman where worked for decades.
Union Worker – Gary Bryner; Weekend Edition Saturday
Gary Bryner had been working in a General Motors factory for four years when he was elected president of the Local 1112 chapter of the United Automobile Workers in Lordstown, Ohio. At only 29 years old, Bryner was in a powerful position at the assembly plant. He led a successful strike in 1972 in response to the plants’ replacement of many jobs with machines to increase the speed of the assembly line. Bryner recently retired after more than 45 years. He reflects on how factory work and the role of unions have changed over the past four decades.
Press Agent – Eddie Jaffe; Weekend All Things Considered
Eddie Jaffe was a press agent “legendary for his lost causes, chutzpah and angst.” He represented broadway and hollywood stars. In his interview with Studs Terkel, Jaffe looked back on his career and wondered if somehow he made the wrong choice.
Private Investigator – Anthony Ruggiero; Weekend Edition Sunday
Anthony Ruggiero worked as a porter, a baker, a newspaper man, and a drunk. As an undercover investigator in Brooklyn, Ruggiero was hired by companies to root out criminal activity. In his 1970’s interview with Studs Terkel, he talked about what it takes to do this kind of work: be an honest guy.
Your Working Story
Project&’s “Your Working Story” is a dynamic online archive where everyone can contribute their stories of working in America. This accessible digital platform will give everyone the opportunity to upload images of themselves alongside their brief stories, putting their narratives in continual conversation with the traveling exhibition.
In collaboration with public libraries across the United States, Project& will assist in developing programming and dialogues that ask how we can reimagine work to enhance the dignity and quality of life for individuals, families, communities, and the nation.