Teaching with Stamps: Primary resources for teaching America’s history and heritage.
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The credit for the founding of Labor Day, an annual holiday celebrating the American workforce, historically goes to tireless labor unions and workmen’s groups who fought for better recognition and treatment during the later 19th century. During the height of the Industrial Revolution, in the late 1800s, manufacturing quickly became the mainstay of American economy, but many of the workers who contributed to booming industries were sorely mistreated. The average American laborer typically worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week. In some parts of the country, children as young as six years old were put to work – for half the pay of an adult – in dangerous mills, factories, and mines. To stand up to corrupt business owners, workers formed labor unions, and organized heated strikes, boycotts, and parades. When these protests grew violent, severe labor reform was made, and in 1894 Congress authorized an annual holiday, held on the first Monday of every September, to commemorate tireless workers. Today, Labor Day also signals the closing of summer for many, and beacons the beginning of the school year.
What is a strike? Why do workers and laborers deserve fair treatment?