May Day photo essay: The Faces of Labor
Comfort food for carry-out only, countertop conversations will have to wait.| Al Neal / PW

These are the faces of American workers. The anonymous individuals clocking nine to five and then some. They prepare our food; deliver our mail; fix our bridges, roads, and highways; empty and replace our garbage dumpsters; and everything else in between. Every generation preceding the last can thank the sacrifices—blood, sweat, and tears—made to provide us with the current workplace protections and gumption to stand against injustice on and off the job.

As we mark May Day, International Workers’ Day, a celebration honoring the global working class, let’s take a moment to reflect on the past, the present, and the future.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt daily life as we knew it, front line workers, “essential workers,” are forcefully changing the public perception of work.

A fast-food worker offers quick comfort food to overwhelmed families struggling; they are no longer just “burger flippers” who deserve less than a living wage. And the same can be said for any low-wage worker, in any industry, up to the building and construction trades hammering away, and repairing our workplaces, public buildings, and homes.

We honor them. All those rising to meet the daily challenges of life. The images below are ordinary snapshots of the working class.

Postal workers still bring us the daily mail. | Al Neal / PW
Toilet paper may be hard to get, but the public won’t go without power. | Al Neal / PW
Tuckpointing and brickwork. | Al Neal / PW
Construction crews. | Al Neal / PW



Fighting for their health and safety now, fast food workers continue to organize. | Al Neal / PW
A regular scene on any given weekend night is now a distant memory. Servers and wait staff took a huge economic hit due to Covid-19 and the slow response from elected officials. | Al Neal / PW
An elderly server. | Al Neal / PW
A mechanic out of work, but never short of work.| Al Neal / PW
Need a new dumpster for the neighborhood? She’ll still drop it off. | Al Neal / PW


Al Neal
Al Neal

Award winning journalist Al Neal is PW associate editor for labor and politics. He is also the chief photographer for People's World. He is a member of the Chicago News Guild, Society of Professional Journalists, Professional Photographers of America, National Sports Media Association, and The Ernest Brooks Foundation.