California Federation of Teachers – Labor in the Schools Program

Labor in the Schools – The California Model

What can labor organizations do to promote teaching about the labor movement in our schools?

The California Federation of Teachers, AFT, AFL-CIO, has created a comprehensive program (and useful model), led by its Labor in the Schools Committee,  which helps teachers reach students with information about the history and current place of the labor movement in American democracy. Their program includes development of lesson plans on labor across all subject matter areas and grade levels; periodically updating a clearinghouse of K-12 curricular materials and labor education activities; conducting workshops for teachers and unionists; and tracking public education policy about labor.

Among its most popular resources is the Collective Bargaining Project that utilizes a simulation/role play method to engage students in an exercise to understand union organizing and collective bargaining and how labor and management resolve workplace conflicts.

The CFT committee also spearheaded the production of Golden Lands, Working Hands, a ten-part, three hour video series, which introduces students, union members and the general public to California labor history.

At CFT’s urging, a Speaker’s Commission on Labor Education was created in 2001. It helps students understand the role of the labor movement in history and contemporary society. Its projects include legislation, exhibits and supplementary Social Studies curricula approved by the California Department of Education.

The CFT Labor in the Schools Committee has also produced curricula for students at all levels from pre-school coloring books to college readings. They include elementary publications such as I, Tomato, The Yummy Pizza Company, Trouble in the Hen House: A Puppet Show and others. Click here for a complete list and ordering information.

The CFT web site also includes a section on K-12 Labor Education Links and a California Labor History Map that can be ordered from the California Federation of Teachers for $6.

The CFT has been successful in promoting passage of a law signed by Governor Jerry Brown designating May as Labor History Month. Governor Brown has also issued a proclamation “to commemorate this month with appropriate educational exercises that make pupils aware of the role labor has played in shaping California and the United States.”

For additional information, contact: Chair, Labor in the Schools Committee, CFT, 1330 Broadway, Suite 1601, Oakland, CA 94546 or call (510) 523-5238.

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