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May is Labor History and Safe Jobs for Youth Month

Letter Head: Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, California Department of Education

March 21, 2014

Dear County and District Superintendents and Charter School Administrators:


This is an important time for educators to promote Common Core standards and critical thinking skills that will help prepare students to understand and actively participate in the world of work.

May is Labor History Month. Enacted by legislation in 2002, and amended in 2012 to cover the full month of May, Education Code (EC) Section 51009 encourages schools “ . . . to commemorate this month with appropriate educational exercises that make pupils aware of the role the labor movement has played in shaping California and the United States.”

Labor Code (LC) Section 6359 establishes a statewide young worker health and safety resource network to “…coordinate and augment existing outreach and education efforts and provide technical assistance, education materials and other support to schools, job training programs, employers and other organizations working to education students and their communities about workplace health and safety and child labor laws.” This network these efforts during Safe Jobs for Youth Month.

I am pleased to join John A. Pérez, Speaker of the State Assembly; the California Partnership for Young Worker Health and Safety; the California Federation of Teachers; the California Teachers Association; the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO; the State Building and Construction Trades Council; and other members of the Speaker’s Commission on Labor Education, to encourage the State’s public schools to participate in this educational effort.

Labor History Month

A growing number of Web sites have teaching and learning resources about the historical achievements of the labor movement, including those listed below. Please disseminate this information as widely as possible.

  • The State Board of Education approved Content Standards in History-Social Studies make multiple references to labor or unions. EC Section 60040(c) also calls for study of “The role and contributions of the entrepreneur and labor in the total development of California and the United States.”
  • Work, Money and Power: Unions in the 21st Century is a 24-page pamphlet from the University of California, Berkeley, Center for Labor Research and Education, explaining what unions are and do, including an overview of labor history. It is a California Department of Education approved supplementary history/social science text.
  •,-working-hands.html The California Federation of Teachers Web site features an award winning ten-part video series on the history of the California Labor Movement, Golden Lands, Working Hands. You may view sample clips and ordering information online. The series is available on DVD, with a CD of lesson plans. It is a CDE-approved supplementary history/social science text.
  • The Los Angeles Unified School District and United Teachers Los Angeles support the Collective Bargaining Project, which brings role-playing and simulations about labor history and collective bargaining to middle and high school classrooms, and assists teachers in other districts.
  • The CDE created a model K–12 curriculum on the life and work of César Chávez on his birthday, March 31, a State holiday. This site also includes a bibliography and other resources on César Chávez and farm labor issues.
  • Calisphere is a Web site of primary sources and more for educators developed by the University of California, Berkeley. Teachers and students are able to see documents and images of California’s labor history from the Gold Rush to the Twentieth Century.
Safe Jobs for Youth Month

The California Partnership for Young Worker Health and Safety is a project funded by the California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensations, led by the Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) at the University of California, Berkeley. It offers materials and activities for Safe Jobs for Youth Mouth Web page at, including the following activities for schools:

  • Use the Resource Kit to teach about health and safety or organize other educational activities. Teaching activities that link specifically with labor history month include “There Ought to be a Law” and “Triangle Tragedy.”
  • Hold lunch parties, health fairs, and assemblies with workplace focus.

With these exciting materials and instructional possibilities, you should have no difficulty helping your students to participate in Labor History Month and Safe Jobs for Youth Month. If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact Craig Cheslog, Principal Advisor, Office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, by phone at 916-319-0800.


Tom Torlakson


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