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McCord Museum Montreal: the strike of labourers in the port. Anonyme - Anonymous, What evolved into just another summer holiday began as a working class struggle and massive demonstration of solidarity in the streets of Toronto. Canada was changing rapidly during the second half of the 19th century.

As machines began to replace or automate many work processes, employees found they no longer had special skills to offer employers. Workers could easily be replaced if they complained or dissented and so were often unable to speak out against low wages, long work weeks and deplorable working conditions.

At the time, unions were illegal in Canada, which was still operating under an archaic British law already abolished in England. For over three years the Toronto Printers Union had been lobbying its employers for a shorter work week. After repeatedly being ignored by their employers, the workers took bold action and on March 25, , they went on strike. On April 14, a group of 2, workers marched through the streets in a show of solidarity.

The First Labour Day - Canada's History

The employers were forced to take notice. Brown brought in workers from nearby towns to replace the printers. He even took legal action to quell the strike and had the strike leaders charged and arrested for criminal conspiracy. Conservative Prime Minister John A.

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Macdonald was watching the events unfold and quickly saw the political benefit of siding with the workers. Macdonald passed the Trade Union Act, which repealed the outdated British law and decriminalized unions. The strike leaders were released from jail. The workers still did not obtain their immediate goals of a shorter work week. In fact, many still lost their job.


It's not that Cleveland was a great friend of labor. In fact, he had just sent out troops to break a strike. During the economic depression known as the Panic of , workers for the Pullman Car Co.

Labor Day - Holiday History

They were joined by hundreds of thousands of workers in a nationwide walkout. Facing a strike that would shut down America's railroads, Cleveland dispatched 12, federal troops on the premise that the strike interfered with the U. In the ensuing violence, at least 13 strikers were killed.

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This was not the first time troops had been used against American workers. Federal soldiers, state militias and private armies, often from the Pinkerton Detective Agency, had used deadly force to break many 19th-century strikes. Some of these strikes had become pitched battles, like the Homestead strike of in Pennsylvania.

There, men on both sides armed with rifles and cannons died fighting over keeping a union at a steel mill, a union that owner Andrew Carnegie and manager Henry Frick were determined to break. After crushing the Pullman strike, Cleveland thought that granting workers a Labor Day holiday was a sop that would appease them as he sought a third term. It didn't work; he was denied the Democratic nomination in Politicians and labor leaders were content to keep the holiday in September, far from the growing popularity of May Day as a commemoration of the "Martyrs of Haymarket Square," a group of union leaders executed -- unjustly, it was later proved -- after Chicago's deadly Haymarket Square Riots in May For unions, Labor Day proved a hollow victory.

Most of the reforms they sought did not come about for nearly half a century.

Labor Day Facts and Worksheets

The Depression-era fair labor laws that were passed under Franklin D. Roosevelt finally set standards like the eight-hour day and an end to child labor. This history is worth remembering on Labor Day. Will Farmer Brown give them all blankets? What do you think? Kids love the book and immediately understand that the animals have more power when they band together.

Teaching Kids About Labor Day

They also get that what the animals want is reasonable—no one likes to feel chilly! She was beaten by cops and regularly hauled into jail, but she kept fighting for justice. The mixed-media illustrations are delightful, incorporating swatches of fabric, snippets of timecards and ledgers, and lots of stitched thread. The book concludes:. Her throat is hoarse, her feet are sore, but she has helped thousands of people. Proving that in America, wrongs can be righted, warriors can wear skirts and blouses, and the bravest hearts may beat in girls only five feet tall.

They may not believe this at this time of year. Finally, believe it or not, the Harry Potter books have their own labor story: that of Dobby, the House Elf. House-elves are goblin-like indentured servants for rich wizards, and they can be liberated only if a master hands them a sock.

If you have a teenager at home, he or she has probably already read the Hunger Games trilogy or seen the movies, because this series is a teen obligation of today, much like sulking and eye-rolling.