Labor Day honors the American worker and acknowledges the value and dignity of work and its role in American life. The first Labor Day was celebrated on September 5, 1882, in New York. Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. On June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday. (Source: U.S. Department of Labor.)
Here are some Labor Resources to help you and your students learn more about our working men and women.
- American Labor Studies Center
This web site offer resources for K-12 teachers, including labor lesson plans, labor songs, labor quotes, timelines, biographies, and more.
- American Labor Museum
See a video history of The House on the Green (20 min) (the house that is now the American Labor Museum/Botto House) and the 1913 Paterson Strike.
- AFL-CIO: Labor History Timeline
This web page provides an annotated timeline for labor history events from 1619 to the present.
- The Triangle Factory Fire – March 25, 1911
The Triangle Factory Fire is widely considered a pivotal moment in history, leading to the transformation of the labor code of New York State and to the adoption of fire safety measures that served as a model for the whole country. (NEA-compiled resources)
- The Triangle Factory Fire
This rich resource provides original text documents, interviews of survivors and witnesses, and photographs and illustrations. From the Kheel Center at Cornell University.
- NEA: Combatting Negative Views of Unions: A Defense of Labor Studies ( PDF, 86 KB, 12 pgs.)
Victor G. Devinatz, professor of labor relations at Illinois State University, talks about the role of unions in promoting social justice, helping to pass employment-related legislation that has benefited unionized workers and nonunion employees, having positive effects on productivity, and unions’ importance in maintaining a healthy democratic society.
- National Public Radio
Listen to a working lesson in American history from Jeff Cowie, a professor at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, in A Brief History of the Labor Movement. (2006) (audio 5:49 min)
- United Association for Labor Education
This site offers numerous resources, including labor education in K-12.
- AFL-CIO: A Short History of American Labor ( PDF, 77 KB, 16 pgs.)
Adapted from March 1981 AFL-CIO American Federalist.
- ALSC Lesson Guide for “A Short History of American Labor” ( PDF, 513 KB, 4 pgs.)
Prepared by the American Labor Studies Center.
- Education World: American Labor Day
This site has numerous lesson ideas and activities for the holiday.
- InstructorWeb: American Labor Day
See an excerpt from a lesson plan on Labor Day for grades 3-5. You must enter your email address to download the lesson plan and worksheet.
- TeachersCorner: Writing Prompt Activity ( PDF, 165 KB, 1 pg.)
This activity for elementary and middle school students has a photo and prompt about the most important job in your community.
- Library of Congress: Child Labor in America
Middle and high school students can see the factors that contributed to the Industrial Revolution in the United States.
- National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum: Hardball and Handshakes
This instructional unit uses the history of labor relations in major league baseball as a case study to probe the question: Why have professional athletes formed unions? It presents the labor contract and negotiations side of baseball.
- American Labor Studies Center: Labor Songs
These labor songs can be used in both music classes and other subjects. Some language in the songs make them unsuitable for younger students.
- YouTube Video: Workers Compensation History
This ten-minute video created by high school students in Houston, Texas, discusses workers compensation, using historical photographs and documents.