Labor Day is a national holiday meant to honor the American labor movement, which is made up of workers who advocate for more rights, better benefits and higher pay.
Kids have always helped do the work it takes to support families and the economy, but thanks to the labor movement, children in 2020 in the United States get to go to school and have play time instead of working long hours in dangerous factories.
The way people work dramatically changed during a period known as the Industrial Revolution, between the late 1700s and early 1800s, when new machines and factories replaced the old way of making things by hand.
These new factories needed new workers. Because of their small size, children sometimes did very dangerous jobs that adults couldn’t do — like going inside the tiny nooks and crannies of a mine or a large machine. In some places, nearly half the mill and factory workers were children. They were often injured at work and abused by their bosses.
Even though kids took extraordinary risks, they were usually paid less than adults. Workers understood this was unfair, so they held strikes, meaning they refused to work. Eventually, the public and politicians started to pay attention to the terrible conditions both children and adults were working in.
In the early 1900s, the federal government started considering regulations to protect child workers. At the same time, new technology and a growing economy allowed families and businesses to rely less on children to work.
In modern times, children in the United States are forbidden from working full-time or doing industrial work. While a small number of American children are still forced to work in dangerous situations, the vast majority of child workers do part-time jobs such as babysitting and yard work. Some kids help with their family’s business or farm.
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If you’re glad to live at home and go to school instead of working 12 hours a day in a dangerous factory, you can thank the American labor movement for that.
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