A signature component of the summertime Student Internship-Union Mentoring model is a day-long Labor History Day. This is a paid working day away from the workplace during which student interns, union mentors, and other invited guests (such as workplace supervisors and managers, union officers and stewards, labor leaders, or education partners) participate in a multi-faceted educational program focused on U.S. Labor History. The day’s activities are also meant to help mentors and interns understand how the story of their own workplace union (or unions) fits within the past and present of the U.S. Labor Movement. Scenes from a 2011 Labor History Day involving several eastern Connecticut public sector union mentors and their student interns have been captured in an 8-minute video.
Most often, this unique educational day is organized by the Local Union or by a regional Central Labor Council or other Labor Federation. Labor History Day typically draws upon the expertise of area labor historians or other educators to design and deliver an engaging and informative educational experience. Most Labor History Day programs also feature a memorable re-enactment of a turn-of-the-20th century assembly line experience during which attendees go back in time, take on the role of factory workers, and are exposed to the conditions and work expectations of that period.
The day also typically includes short lectures or presentations, discussion sessions, films, experiential activities such as role-playing or “labor history jeopardy,” and a walking tour (if the site used for the Labor History Day has a labor history connection).
This one-day program is meant to complement and add to the education that individual union mentors already provide to interns about labor-management relations and the collective bargaining process in their own workplace.
A local museum, such as the Windham Textile and History Museum in Willimantic, CT or the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, CT, where numerous Labor History Day events have been held, may be an ideal location for a Labor History Day experience. The Lowell, Massachusetts National Historical Park, the only National Park devoted to the history of the U.S. industrial workers, has also been the site of a number of Labor History Day events.