September 1, 2023

Why we celebrate Labor Day

Educators For Excellence •

Background Image: E4E teachers and staff on the steps of New York City Hall delivering a press conference.

Labor Day is a day for us to celebrate American workers’ social and economic achievements over the last century. At Educators for Excellence (E4E), the annual federal holiday allows us to reiterate the power and importance of teachers’ unions. As one of the most powerful entities in education decision-making, not just at the local level but also at the state and federal level, we see unions as a driving force for social and racial justice in our schools.

We understand the impact of teachers lifting their voices and assuming leadership within their unions: In 2022, we saw a historic teacher’s contract win in Minneapolis to protect teacher diversity. Additionally, in states and districts across the country, including Hartford, CT, unions have secured significant increases in teacher pay, have shifted those increases towards early career teachers, and have created incentives for teachers to work in traditionally hard-to-staff schools.

Despite these wins and other efforts to elevate the teaching profession and improve our education system, much work remains to be done. The findings from our annual teacher survey, Voices from the Classroom, show that the K-12 public education system is not meeting our students’ needs, especially those historically marginalized.

Furthermore, teachers are calling on their districts and unions to continue working together to increase pay, expand their partnership to ensure all teachers have high-quality curricular materials and appropriate guidance for delivering that material, decrease workloads, improve student assessments, and prioritize recruiting and retaining diverse educators.*

While unions provide many tangible benefits to their teacher members, we’ve heard from educators across the country that unions haven’t been doing enough to help with the professionalization of the workforce; consequently, teachers haven’t been looking to their union contracts as a tool for innovation and improvement. (Read our survey to learn more; pg. 36)

That’s why E4E is committed to investing in teachers to support their work to create more student-focused, anti-racist, democratic teachers’ unions that elevate the profession and improve student outcomes. As the voice of educators, we have great hope in our unions as a powerful lever for progress both for teachers and students.

This Labor Day, we reflect on the massive force for progress that our unions have been throughout our nation’s history. We commit to the work of weaving together the unmatched power of our unions with the evolving priorities and policy solutions that educators know will benefit their profession and their students to drive change.

*Want to know which E4E districts and states are providing teachers what they are calling for? Check out our 2023 Regional Report Cards

Educators For Excellence