Stories of the Way They Worked

Take a look back.


Caregiving as a Value

My grandmother worked in a clinic for government employees in Taiwan for over 40 years, first as a nurse and eventually as a clinic administrator. She has an energy about her; her spirit is incredibly active. Even when she’s simply listening, she’s completely engaged and taking everything in as if it holds the secrets of the universe. She’s been this way ever since I can remember. I believe it made her a wonderful nurse, leader and caregiver. She also never hesitated to offer wisdom: she urged me never to fear or avoid hardship, it’s always best to face it because it’s just part of life. And, no matter what, to always be kind and caring. “Caregiving is one of life’s greatest gifts.” And she didn’t mean receiving care, she meant being able to choose to give care to another person is a sign that you’re truly alive and connected to others. That ethic has kept her grounded, energized and joyful in her work and in life in general for 88 years and counting. I know many care workers today who live by that ethic, and I’m so grateful that one of them, Mrs. Sun, now supports my grandmother to live independently in her home in California near my uncle and sister. Ai-jen Poo is the Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Co-director of the Caring Across Generations campaign... read more

Let Your Work Speak for Itself

Remember the cafeteria lady at your high school? That was my grandmother, Juanita Lavelle Shuler. She raised five children and worked full time to support the family, as my grandfather was disabled. She was hard working and took her responsibilities very seriously. She went to work every day and cooked the food that kept the children and staff at Oregon’s Sandy High School moving. She took a lot of pride in her work. The most important lesson I learned from her about work was that if you work hard and do your best at whatever job you have, you can let your work speak for itself. You don’t have to do any self-promoting or bragging about all the wonderful things you’ve done – just let the hard work do the talking. Liz Shuler is the Secretary-Treasurer of the... read more

Why Jobs and Lives with Dignity Matter

My grandfather was a laborer at R.T. French & Company in Rochester, NY, loading and unloading freight cars, and then working in the spices and birdseed areas where he prepared those commodities for mixing and packaging. It was hard, physical labor. He died at age 65 of lung cancer which the doctors felt was undoubtedly connected to his work because of the heavy dust infiltration in the area of the factory where he worked. My grandfather emigrated to the United States in 1923 from the Netherlands—he had no education beyond several years in a Dutch primary school. My grandmother worked after her arrival in Rochester, from Belgium in 1920, as a cleaning woman in an orphanage until 1925 when she had saved enough to buy a heavily mortgaged house on Mayberry Street. She ran a boarding house while raising my Aunt Jennie and my father, William. It was a very modest house with about eight boarders, mostly Dutchmen, who were immigrants and worked as laborers or chauffeurs or gardeners for the most part. My grandmother did everything—cooking, laundry, lunches to take to work, cleaning. In 1938, factory employment became possible and she worked at R.T. French preparing mustard and spices for marketing, and when the war came, she took special training to operate a lathe –and worked in a war production factory. After the war, she became a cleaning lady again at the University of Rochester. There was no labor union until 1948. My father was working in the laboratory of R.T. French that summer, earning $1.25—my grandfather who had worked at the company for more than 20 years... read more


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