Labor history stays alive through resources and recognition

At least two avenues are providing traction for our ability to teach students about labor history and the labor movement.

The first: A lot more information and resources are available digitally now, which is especially beneficial since the role of labor is often tamped down in many history textbooks.

“There  is loads of information available about labor on the Internet. Our challenge is to make teachers aware of it,” said Paul Cole, director of the American Labor Studies Center (ALSC).

American labor, as noted in a 2011 report by the Albert Shanker Institute and ALSC, often receives short shrift. “In the high school history textbooks our children read, too often we find that labor’s role in American history— and labor’s important accomplishments, which changed American life forever — are misrepresented, downplayed or ignored. That is a tragedy, because labor played (and continues to play) a key role in the development of American democracy and the American way of life,” according to the report.

The second pathway promoting labor history to students and teachers is the labor studies center itself. The center’s outreach includes hosting the Labor History Project, which last year drew 6,000 entries from every state. The 2015 winning entry from New Hampshire student Megan Murphy was about Mother Jones. A gold medal and $1,000 will go to the 2016 first-place winner.

The ALSC also has curricula available on its website for teachers, and proclaims that “the goal of the ALSC is not to indoctrinate or proselytize, but to provide students with an opportunity to explore the many facets of a very complex and important part of out nation’s history and contemporary life.”

Each year, the ALSC sponsors an annual recognition reception at NYSUT, where it awards the Kate Mullany Medal to those who help advance its cause. The event draws people from around the state who work to keep the rights of workers in the forefront of consciousness and culture.

This year’s reception is Dec. 8. The 2015 recipients are the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), which is the only national union for women; former National Labor College president William E. Scheuerman,  a past president of United University Professions, NYSUT’s higher education affiliate at SUNY; and New York state Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, 109th district, whose career has been focused on education and jobs.

Commemorative Journal ads are available now by clicking on “Order Form” on the ALSC web site home page.

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