Essential Work: Exploring the Past, Present and Future of Jobs.

The program explores a wide range of social and economic topics impacting the American workforce, from fast-food counter clerks to C-suite CEOs.  It presents a mix of interviews with local and national experts helmed by a rotating cast of hosts including Rosemary Trump, Dr. Charles McCollester, Dr. Patricia DeMarco and Nathan Ruggles.

Essential Work will be available at regular podcast platforms — including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.

“Ever since its founding, Pittsburgh has been a center for innovation in industry and labor,” says John Haer, Battle of Homestead Foundation president. “As the U.S. economic landscape becomes even more disrupted and decentralized, we thought it was important to look at what these changes mean for individual workers.”

In addition, notes Foundation vice-president Steffi Domike, each episode highlights Pittsburgh-area service and social action groups making a positive difference in the community. “Essential Work: Exploring the Past, Present and Future of Jobs is more than abstract theorizing about the evolution of work. It provides a clearinghouse for information listeners will find useful here and now.”

The podcast also contains a regular feature by labor music historian L.E. McCullough spotlighting songs and performers connected to the topic. “Work and labor issues have always found their way into the popular culture,” says McCullough. “Using music to educate and spur people to action is as viable today as it ever was.”

Upcoming Essential Work programs examine farmers and the potential for regenerative agriculture, the emerging plastics-alternative industry, jobs in the coming Green Economy, manufacturing in a post-fossil fuel world, the Re-Imagine Appalachia movement and several episodes devoted to the anticipated effects of artificial intelligence on employment and education.

Scroll Down for All Episodes!

Episode One: The Premiere Episode of Essential Work!

AUGUST 28, 2020 –  42 MINUTES

This is the premiere episode of Essential Work: Exploring the Past, Present, and Future of Jobs, brought to you by the Battle of Homestead Foundation.

The episode features:

  1. Discussion between host Nathan Ruggles and John Haer, current President of the Battle of Homestead Foundation, about the organization, it’s mission, and why it’s starting a podcast.
  2. As part of her regular segment Pathways to a New Economy, looking at labor, environment and health, Patty DeMarco interviews one of the leaders of the new ReImagine Appalachia initiative: Amanda Woodrum, of Policy Matters Ohio.  They discuss the origins of this project to forge a new blueprint for the future of the region and beyond, with exciting proposals for developments around the economy, jobs, and the environment.
  3. Nathan Ruggles talks with Battle of Homestead communications manager and labor music aficionado Larry McCullough, introducing the regular final segment in which they take the show out on a song.  They discuss this weeks selection, “Loom Weaver,” along with some of the latest news and events from the organization.

Episode Two: Worker Health and Safety (“We Just Come to Work Here, We Don’t Come to Die”)

SEPTEMBER 05, 2020 – 47:08 MINUTES

Rosemary Trump and Dr. Charles McCollester talk with host Nathan Ruggles about challenges workers face during the COVID-19 pandemic, enforcement of OSHA laws, the role unions play in advocating worker protection, and more.
This is the start of a new monthly feature called Working Over Time, with regular expert commentators Rosemary Trump and Charlie McCollester. Host Nathan Ruggles engages with them on the issue of worker health and safety in the time of a pandemic, with a historic perspective and attention to the role of unions.

Following that is a discussion with Larry McCullough covering free online programs and upcoming events hosted by the Battle of Homestead Foundation.

The show ends as always with an appropriate music selection from Larry. This time: “We Just Come to Work Here, We Don’t Come to Die” composed by Oregon longshoreman Harry Stamper and recorded for Smithsonian Folkways by Pittsburgh singer-songwriter and labor activist Anne Feeney.

“We Just Come to Work Here, We Don’t Come to Die” — Anne Feeney, Classic Labor Songs (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings), 2006. On Spotify.

Episode Three: Compliments of Your Waitress

September 14, 2020 – 40.26 inutes

THIS WEEK’S Essential Work podcast examines the ongoing struggles of food service workers through a conversation with representatives of local nonprofit Restaurant Opportunities Center of Pittsburgh (ROC).

HOST NathanRuggles talks with organizer and former server Bobbit Linskens, and local barista and member of ROC, Abbey Rideout. Topics in this multipart interview include their experiences on the job, the issues they and other workers in the industry have been facing, the particular challenges for restaurant workers under a pandemic, the work ROC has done to help struggling workers, and their hopes for the future.

Episode Four: Nickeled and Dimed

September 20, 2020 33 min

Episode 4 of Essential Work: Exploring the Past, Present, and Future of Jobs, brought to you by the Battle of Homestead Foundation. Includes:A feature interview continuing the focus on the struggles of food service workers with Part 2 of a conversation with the nonprofit organization The Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) PA and their work fighting to improve wages and working conditions.

This part covers the issue of wages and benefits in the industry, through the experiences of Bobbi Linskens, organizer and former server, and Abbey Rideout, a barista and member of ROC.

(Part 3 will appear in a special bonus episode.)Battle of Homestead Foundation Communication Manager Larry McCollough with the latest on upcoming free online events hosted by the organization.

The episode finished with a song selection from Larry, another inspired by the theme of the restaurant worker:“Nickeled and Dimed” from the film “The American Ruling Class”, inspired by the book “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America,” written by the social historian Barbara Ehrenreich in 1998.

Episode Five of Essential Work: Serving It Up Pandemic-Style

October 5, 2020 – 31 minutes

Final episode in the series featuring the struggles of food service workers. Representatives of the nonprofit organization The Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) Pittsburgh talk with Nathan Ruggles about their experiences. Organizer and former server Bobbit Linskens, and local barista and member of ROC, Abbey Rideout conclude the multipart interview by detailing the particular challenges for restaurant workers under a pandemic, additional work by ROC, and talk about their hopes for the future. (Be sure to check out Parts 1 & 2!.)

Episode Six of Essential Work: ¡Que Viva Clemente!

Oct 10, 2020 – 57 min

Episode includes: A feature interview about the issues facing immigrant workers from Latin America in the United States, and in particular those who are undocumented, with Guillermo Perez from the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA).

Topics also include Puerto Rico, baseball, and the annual event celebrating storied Hall of Famer Robert Clemente: ¡Que Viva Clemente!

Episode 7: Pathways to a New Economy that Works for Us

OCTOBER 16, 2020 34:17 minutes

Patty DeMarco returns with Pathways to a New Economy. Her feature interview is with teacher, activist and organizer Michael Bagdes-Canning. They talk dirty jobs and clean ones, failing industry and green, along with fracking and climate change.

Episode 8 of Essential Work: Exploring the Past, Present, and Future of Jobs, brought to you by the Battle of Homestead Foundation: A 21st Century WPA: Back from Halimuhfack Taking a look at the most impactful and ambitious employment program in American history: the Works Progress Administration, or WPAIncludes:1. Nathan Ruggles talks with Max Page of the University of Massachusetts Amherst about his recent piece in Labor Notes entitled “In the Face of Mass Unemployment, We Need a 21st Century WPA.”

Page is Professor of Architecture and a Director of Historic Preservation Initiatives and Vice President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

They review the powerful past legacy of the WPA, his proposal for a WPA for today, and a vision for what such a program could mean for the future.The Living New Deal: https://livingnewdeal.org2.

Produced by the Battle of Homestead Foundation, Essential Work is online at and also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and the Battle of Homestead Foundation website.

Podcast website:

Comment line: (412) 326-9435


Logo by Brittany Sheets –

Original Music by Jason Kendall –