Labor Day honors the contributions of American workers and the labor movement (the people who brought you the weekend, the eight-hour work day and improved working conditions). Use this holiday to highlight the importance of worker rights, including the right to organize and join a union.
On this day in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Adamson Act, which established an eight-hour workday, with additional pay for overtime work for railroad workers. The Act was the culmination of organizing by railroad workers and the first federal law to regulate the hours of workers in private companies. Discuss the importance of unions and worker rights on this anniversary, and cite the values of Economic Security, Voice, and Community.
On this day in 1925, A. Philip Randolph and colleagues launched the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP). The union was the first labor organization led by African Americans to receive a charter in the American Federation of Labor and played a vital role in U.S. labor and civil rights movements. Discuss this anniversary by citing the values of voice and economic opportunity.
On this day in 1997, Seattle-area postal workers organized the first National Postal Worker Day. From the COVID-19 pandemic to mail-in voting, recent events revealed how much we — and our democracy — depends on the essential labor of postal carriers and delivery workers. Cite the values of voice, community, and economic opportunity on this day.
January is Poverty Awareness Month, when the Catholic community urges Americans to “take up Pope Francis’ challenge to live in solidarity with the poor.” Use this month to discuss poverty with your audiences and cite the values of community and economic opportunity.
On this day in 1968, African American sanitation workers went on strike in Memphis, Tennessee for better pay and safer working conditions. The strikers would create the iconic image with their “I Am a Man” posters. During the strike, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. traveled to Memphis, where he was assassinated. Discuss this anniversary by citing the values of voice, opportunity, and community.
Today is labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez’s birthday (1927) and a state holiday in California. Discuss the ongoing issues faced by farmworkers and the importance of unions, citing the values of economic opportunity and community.
The last seven days of March are National Farmworker Awareness Week. Since 1999, Student Action with Farmworkers has coordinated this week of action to “raise awareness about farmworker issues, honor their everyday contributions, and gain more allies to help advocate for better living and working conditions in the fields.” Farm work exposes workers to significant occupational hazards and has few federal labor protections such as overtime pay or unemployment insurance. Talk about farmworker rights citing the values of economic opportunity, equity, and community.
On this day in 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Manhattan killed 146 immigrant garment workers (predominantly women). Use this anniversary to discuss the concerns of immigrant workers, particularly workplace safety. Cite the values of economic opportunity and community.
On this day in 1917, the Supreme Court upheld the Eight Hour Act, the first federal law regulating the work hours of private companies. The law was passed by Congress after nationwide industrial strikes. Unions have also been instrumental in fighting for worker rights but fair scheduling and overtime are still issues for many Americans. Discuss this anniversary citing the values of community and economic opportunity.