Just in time for the start of the school year is a holiday to impress on everyone that summer is REALLY over. But what is Labor Day truly about? Here is a list of resources that examine the history of the observation.
- From Digital History, the day’s beginning in the violence that accompanied the establishment of workers’ rights (despite the fact that it is not celebrated on the anniversary of the Haymarket Affair)
- From the U.S. Department of Labor, a history of the legislation creating the holiday in the U.S.
- Several History.com videos on the subject — especially the role of strikes from Homestead to G.M — curated by Indiana University Northwest
To review the larger background of labor in America, use the Theme: The Labor Movement in WorldView Software’s American History II and Basic American History II (for middle school students). In the theme, you’ll find gathered in one place materials such as Case Study: Haymarket Affair, Internet Project: Impact of Mass Production, and Tutorial: Revolution of Industry.
And the history of labor isn’t over — it’s been undergoing a series of revolutions ever since the Industrial Revolution, and labor regulations and contracts still haven’t caught up to events like: the entrance of women into paid work and the two earner-family, the globalization of manufacturing, the increasing use of robotics, and the freelance/gig economy. You can review the information in WorldView Software’s U.S. Government Theme: Economic and Financial Regulation, U.S. Government with Economics Theme: Globalization, Economics Chapter 7: Business and Labor, and Civics Theme: Globalization (for middle school students). Take the opportunity to discuss recent developments with your students, and encourage them to develop policy ideas of their own based on clearly articulated principles such as fairness.
The featured image is of an unnamed miner in Silverton, Colorado, who won the Labor Day power drilling contest in September, 1940 (photo by Russell Lee, LC-USF33- 012908-M2).
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