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.
“I Am a Man” Protest
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.
National Farmworker Awareness Week
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.
Triangle Shirtwaist Factory
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.
Eight Hour Act
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.
Bread & Roses Strike
On March 12, 1912, the Bread and Roses strikers in Lawrence, MA successfully won their demands. The Zinn Education Project notes, “This was an historic strike that united workers across many traditional barriers including language, nationality, gender, and age.” Cite this anniversary and cite the values of economic opportunity and community.
Fair Minimum Wage Act
On this day in 2007, President George W. Bush signed into law the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which gradually raised the federal minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It was the last time that the federal minimum wage was raised. Use this anniversary to talk about the urgent need to create economic opportunity for more Americans by paying living wages. Cite the values of economic opportunity and community.
May Day is also known as International Workers’ Day. This date has become one of the larger mobilization days to celebrate the important contributions of immigrants to our communities, economy and uplift the need for reforms that uphold human rights and dignity. Talk about the values of community and economic opportunity.
Workers Memorial Day
On Workers Memorial Day, labor unions and organizations working for occupational safety remember those who have suffered and died on the job, while renewing the fight for safe jobs. Cite the values of economic opportunity, community, and voice when discussing this day.