THE SIMPLE TRUTH often is forgotten: American history is labor history. The lives of workers, their successes and struggles, make up the fabric of our nation.
To celebrate the contributions of workers and encourage the inclusion of labor history in instruction, the AFT Tools for Teachers website has launched a new labor history resource for classroom teachers: www.aft.org/ yourwork/tools4teachers/labor.
Organized labor has played an enormous role in the fight for equality, workers' rights and a strong middle class. Workers have long known the power of collective action in defense of freedom, an ethos at the heart of our democracy. It is easy to see the history of the labor movement as a series of strikes, landmark court cases and transformative legislation, but the history of labor is infused into history itself.
The Industrial Revolution, for example, was all about worker safety, child labor, basic wageand-hour protections and the rise of labor unions as a voice for workers. It is impossible to cover the New Deal without looking at legislative action on workers' right to bargain collectively without fear of retribution. The story of women, immigrants and the civil rights movement cannot be told without discussing the catalysts provided by labor.
Below are some ideas to help you incorporate labor history into your instruction. For many more, visit www.aft.org/ yourwork/tools4teachers/labor.
The turn of the 20th century brought industrialization and urbanization that transformed the U.S. economy. Several events riveted the nation's attention on labor issues.
The Triangle Factory Fire of 1911 outraged Americans as 146 young immigrant garment workers perished inside the factory's locked doors. Cornell University has developed an extensive online exhibit on the fire and the evolution of labor laws: www.ilr.cornell.edu/ trianglefire.
To explore labor practices in the garment industry here and abroad, check out www.pbs.org/ pov/madeinla/lesson_plan.php. The lesson plan incorporates clips of the compelling documentary Made in L.A. and suggests more in-depth resources for students.
The rapid growth of industry demanded a larger workforce, which produced an explosion in the use of child laborers. The historical novel Lyddie by Katherine Paterson introduces students to life in the mid-1 9th century, including factory working conditions and child labor. The story centers on a 13-year-old mill worker in Lowell, Mass., and her involvement in labor politics. …