Labor Day, celebrated every year on the first Monday of September, was created to give workers a day of rest and celebration. It was first celebrated in New York in 1882 before being pushed through Congress as a national holiday in 1894 by President Grover Cleveland. Although we now associate Labor Day with cookouts and a sad farewell to the summer season, originally Labor Day meant much more.
In an industrial era when factory work was readily available to a rapidly growing workforce and workplace standards were frighteningly low, labor organizations were fighting a battle to create safety and standards for workers. Although child labor laws were in existance, they were not strongly enforced and many children worked to make low family wages sufficient to feed the family.
Before the celebration, take some time to teach children about the importance of Labor Day and the labor movement in this country. You could start with an excellent resource and image gallery from The History Channel. Kids might also be interested in looking at photos of child workers in the United States from The History Place.
Labor Day can also be used as an opportunity to learn how we are fortunate for labor laws in our country and that not everyone is so fortunate. Child Labor still exists in other places in the world. The International Labor Right Forum is a wonderful resource to learn about child labor around the world. Free the Children is a charity that was started by a 12-year old Canadian boy and empowers children to help other children.