SCHOOL LABOR HISTORY LEGISLATION GAINS MOMENTUM
By Steve Kass
GNHLHA Executive Board Member and Coordinator, Labor History in the Schools Legislative Initiative
With a special task force set up by the GNLHA meeting biweekly this fall, momentum has picked up for holding a public hearing on this legislation during the “short session” of next year’s legislative assembly. Endorsements by the AFL-CIO, AFT, CEA, UAW, AFSCME, CSEA, the Connecticut Working Families party, and others are getting the attention of statewide legislators to make this bill a top priority.
The bill calls for “including the history of organized labor, the collective bargaining process and existing legal protections in the workplace” in the Connecticut public school curriculum. Many labor and educational groups are excited and enthusiastic about finally having labor’s untold story told.
This bill comes at time when the Shankar Institute recently released their report (September, 2011) called “How Labor’s story is distorted in high school history textbooks.” The investigation highlights the “spotty, inadequate, and slanted” coverage of the labor movement in the four major textbooks that account for most of the market in U.S. history textbooks in this country. The textbooks “present labor history in a biased, negative way; for example focusing on strikes and strike violence while neglecting labor’s role in bringing generations of Americans into the middle class.” The textbooks at other times simply ignore many of labor’s contributions in helping to create some of the following social reforms: the eight-hour work day, the forty hour work week, minimum wages, health care benefits, social security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance.
Unfortunately, most people don’t know or remember how crucial labor was in pushing Depression-era politicians to codify the basic features of American work that are now taken for granted.
With the inspiring Occupy movement sweeping the nation, there has never been a more important time to learn (or relearn) working/middle class and labor history: the history of the 99%.