How Will Students Celebrate Labor History Month in California Schools?

How Will Students Celebrate Labor History Month in California Schools?

Do you have children or grandchildren in California public schools? You may need to give some counter-instruction at home to balance the material disseminated at school assemblies and through classroom instruction during Labor History Month.

As enacted by Governor Jerry Brown in 2012 through Assembly Bill 2269, the entire month of May is now designated by the state government for labor unions to introduce their own propaganda to students through California public schools. Union officials and their allies in academia are open about the purpose of teaching labor history as a specific subject in public schools: “The severing of historical memory, through the loss of oral histories, personal connections and diminished media coverage, makes it harder for the labor movement to organize members…informing young people about the movement’s history and accomplishments may help the movement’s future.”

AB 2269 was approved on a party-line vote in the California State Assembly (a handful of Republicans apparently chose not to vote on it) and on a party-line vote in the California State Senate.

The only recorded objection to the bill was my five-page letter: Assembly Bill 2269 – OPPOSE, in which I cited my 2003 article from the journal Government Union Review: Labor History in Public Schools: Unions Get ‘Em While They’re Young.

Labor History Month is an expansion of Labor History Week, signed into law by Governor Gray Davis in 2002 as Assembly Bill 1900. One week turned out to be inadequate, as too many school districts were on vacation during the first week of April. Students were slipping out of the “appropriate educational exercises that make pupils aware of the role that the labor movement has played in shaping California and the United States.”

So now the entire month of May is “Labor History Month” in California schools. It provides 31 days of potential educational exercises, including the historically important international labor holiday on May 1 known as May Day.

Go to these links to see how some parties are especially looking forward to Labor History Month in California public schools:

Here are some related bills and regulatory initiatives from the mid-2000s that were not enacted into California law:

  • In 2003, the California legislature considered but did not pass Assembly Bill 581, which would have required the California State Department of Education to consider a labor relations curriculum in its next determination of the state’s History-Social Science curriculum framework and accompanying instructional materials. The legislature also considered but not did pass Assembly Bill 1177, which would have required school boards to use history, social studies, and civics textbooks that include California labor history up to the present.
  •  In 2004, Assembly Bill 1872 was introduced to insert labor history requirements into the California Education Code. 
  • In 2005, Assembly Bill 1 would have required the California State Board of Education to ensure that the state curriculum and framework include instruction on the history of the labor movement in the United States and that criteria for selecting textbooks include highlighting the contributions and history of the labor movement in the United States.
  • In 2004, “Applicant #31″ for the California Department of Education’s 2005 History-Social Science Primary Adoption Instructional Materials Advisory Panel (IMAP) was a leader in the California Federation of Teachers’ Labor in the Schools Committee. According to the applicant’s profile provided by the Department of Education, Applicant #31 “designed and led professional development workshops on labor education at schools throughout the district, state, and country. She is the creator of the Collective Bargaining Education Project, which models a labor relations curriculum for secondary teachers and students, and author of Workplace Issues and Collective Bargaining in the Classroom, an award-winning interactive social studies curriculum.” My former employer, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of California, sent a letter to the Board of Education opposing the applicant. State Senator Jeff Denham and Assemblyman Bob Dutton also wrote opposition letters to the Board of Education. Nevertheless, the Board of Education appointed Applicant #31 to the panel, even though she was the only applicant who clearly represented a special interest group. In the end, the State Board of Education adopted the History-Social Science Instructional Materials at its November 9, 2005 meeting, without any obvious infiltration of biased labor history into the process. Budget shortfalls have since brought a halt to the state’s process of continually revising and refining the History-Social Science framework. The Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission (Curriculum Commission) approved a draft History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools for field review on July 17, 2009, but lack of funding suspended further work on the framework.

Expect to see more legislation in 2013 and 2014 to wedge Labor History deeper into the California public school curriculum.

Kevin Dayton is the President and CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at

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