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Learning About Labor Day

Labor Day is celebrated every year on the first Monday in September, and while most students know it as the first day off from school, the holiday commemorates important steps in the fight for workers’ rights in the United States. Learn about what Labor Day is, why it’s important, and the people who fought for the rights of workers.
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LITTLE: Sing along to “The Job Song” with the Sesame Street crew, and introduce the concept of work and some of the different jobs people do to earn money. Plus, learn all about Labor Day from All About the Holidays!

MIDDLE: Migrant farm workers in the United States were exploited routinely by the agricultural industry, which forced them to work in unsafe conditions for little pay. They had no political representation until Cesar Chavez established the United Farm Workers union and organized laborers to fight for their rights as workers. Learn about the labor activist and civil rights leader and his impact on labor unions and workers’ rights. You can also check out these primary sources from the Library of Congress about Cesar Chavez and the Delano Grape Strike.

BIGGER: Check out this lesson plan from PBS NewsHour Extra and complete a great interactive lesson to help your students learn about the history of Labor Day, worker strikes, and how unions work.

THINKALONG: Something to Consider – At the turn of the 20th century, the labor movement represented the idea that an organization could stand up for all workers and end exploitation. Labor unions have made enormous steps for the workforce, but have also faced significant challenges. Advocates of workers’ unions say their organizations protect them against wage inequality, harsh working conditions, and limited benefits. Opponents of the labor movement claim that unions have become increasingly political and that forcing non-union members to join is unconstitutional. Do labor unions effectively protect the rights of workers?