Labor Day is more than the end of summer vacation and the beginning of school; it’s an excellent opportunity to explore the world of work, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and gender equality; to earn related badges* and start a Journey; and to kick off the Treats & Keeps product sale. The Treats & Keeps Program allows Girls Scouts to run their own businesses selling chocolates, nuts and magazines to customers to fund their troop activities.
* Visit the Girl Scout Awards and Badges Explorer to preview badges for your program (grade) level under Entrepreneurship and Financial Literacy, at https://www.girlscouts.org/en/members/for-girl-scouts/badges-journeys-awards/badge-explorer.html
Officially, Labor Day is a federal holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September to honor and recognize the American labor movement and the work and contributions of laborers. This quote from Frances Perkins, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Secretary of Labor and the first woman to serve as a cabinet secretary, reminds us of the terrible conditions in factories, mills, coal mines and other work environments during the 1800s and early 1900s:
“There were absolutely no effective laws that regulated the number of hours [women and children] were permitted to work. There were no provisions which guarded their health nor adequately looked after their compensation in case of injury. Those things seemed very wrong.”
During that time, many people, including children, worked six days a week. The workday was ten or more hours long and the pay was low. People accepted these harsh, unsafe working conditions and poor pay because they had to earn a living and conditions were the same almost everywhere. Although only a small number of workers joined the first labor unions, the idea of organized labor to improve working conditions and raise salaries was growing. The International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union was once one of the largest labor unions in the United States, one of the first U.S. unions to have a primarily female membership, and a key player in the labor history of the 1920s and 1930s.
A labor union is an organization formed by workers in a particular trade, industry, or company for the purpose of improving pay, benefits, and working conditions.
The Labor Movement History is Women's History!
Women’s work has always powered American history, but it hasn’t always been acknowledged. The National Park Service has a site (below) where you can find the stories of people and places that have been part of the struggle to make life better for women at work. Some of these women came together in unions to demand fair pay and safe working conditions. They took to the streets in strikes and boycotts to make their voices heard. Others fought in courtrooms and meeting rooms for laws and policies that would protect women workers and give them a fair shake. Often, their struggles connected to broader fights against racism and sexism and for a fairer society. Read more National Park Service stories of labor history and explore the stories of women in the labor movement at: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/womenshistory/women-in-the-labor-movement.htm
MORE TO EXPLORE:
• Read about Women in the Labor Movement. Some women to consider are Agnes Nestor and Mother Jones. Learn more about Frances Perkins.
• While having refreshments (“snack”) or working on one of the “Cook” legacy badge activities, ask your Girl Scouts to think about how their snack or meal ingredients got to them. Who was involved in growing and making the treat/food? Who packaged it? Who transported it? Who sold it? It takes a lot of workers to get to the finished product!
• Look up information on the origins of Labor Day. Go to a Labor Day parade. What groups are on the floats? What do they stand for?
• Take a virtual field trip to the American Labor Museum. Learn about union negotiations. Discover how women were involved in early labor movements,
• Daisies and Brownies: Do a free Labor Day activity sheet
• Take bottled water to construction workers, leave a nice note for the mail carrier or trash/garbage collectors, and make a point to stop and say ‘Thank you” to other workers you encounter throughout the day.
Are women workers treated equally today? Not always!
Have you heard about Equal Pay Day? It began in 1996 as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men’s and women’s wages. Because women earn less, on average, than men, they must work longer for the same amount of pay; the wage gap is even greater for most women of color.
Equal Pay Day isn’t celebrated on the same day each year. Instead, it is celebrated on the date that symbolizes how far into the new year a woman has to work in order to earn what men earned the previous year, and this changes from year to year and country to country. Equal Pay Day 2022 is on April 2, which means women had to work 457 day to earn what men earned in 365 days.
Since 1996, more Equal Pay Days have been added to show how the wages of women of different races and ethnicities compare to white men. These figures are for 2021:
• All Women’s Equal Pay Day was March 24. Women working full time and year round are paid 82 cents for every dollar paid to a man who works full time and year round.
• Asian American and Pacific Islander Women’s Equal Pay Day was March 9. Asian American and Pacific Islander women are paid 85 cents for every dollar paid to white men.
• Mother’s Equal Pay Day was May 5. Mothers are paid 70 cents for every dollar paid to fathers.
• Black Women’s Equal Pay Day was August 3. Black women are paid 63 cents for every dollar paid to white men.
• Native American Women’s Equal Pay Day was September 8. Native women are paid 60 cents for every dollar paid to white men.
• Latina’s Equal Pay Day was October 21. Latinas are paid 57 cents for every dollar paid to white men.
You can celebrate Equal Pay Day through activism or advocacy by contacting your lawmakers and urging them to support equal pay legislation that may be in Congress. To raise awareness, you could host an “unequal bake sale” in which men pay full price but women get a discount of 21 percent! You can also celebrate the day by hosting a forum in your community to get the word out about gender inequality issues and by participating in activities which bring media attention to the issues of gender discrimination and wage inequality.
An advocate is a person who represents another person’s interests; the word comes from the Latin advocare, to “add” a “voice.” To advocate is to add a voice of support to a cause or person. An advocate is anyone who adds that voice by representing another person in court, or by supporting or working toward a particular course of action.
To build your skills as an advocate, complete any of the “It’s Your World-Change It!” Journeys:
• Welcome to the Daisy Flower Garden (Daisy) AND the Courageous and Strong Petal (Tula’s Story)
• Brownie Quest (Brownie)
• Agent of Change (Junior)
• aMAZE (Cadette)
• GIRLtopia! (Senior) AND the Social Innovator badge.
• Your Voice, Your World (Ambassador)
WAGGGS, the World association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, has produced a toolkit for girls and young women who want to learn more about advocacy and how to be a successful advocate. Download a copy of Speak Out for Her World: A Guide for Girls and Young Women to Start Their Own Advocacy CampaignI at https://www.wagggs.org/en/resources/advocacy-toolkit-speak-out-her-world/ (Also available in Spanish, French and Arabic) It's a great resource for the Girl Scout Silver and Gold Awards!