To study the growth and development of labor unions during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
1 and 1/2 class periods
You can begin this lesson by reading with the class the introductory paragraphs describing circumstances which led to the labor movement. Then, assign sections entitled:
The First National Unions
The Nation’s First Major Strikes
Congress Passes Labor Legislation
These sections include follow-up questions in a variety of formats.
Next, class members take part in a fun activity where they pretend it is the mid-1800s, and that the contract at a textile mill in Boston, Massachusetts, is about to expire. Labor and management must get together and negotiate a new work agreement through the process of “collective bargaining.” They will discuss wages, hours of employment, vacation time, medical insurance, other fringe benefits, and general working conditions at the mill.
Divide the class into groups of four students. Two people in each group will represent management (wealthy owners of the textile company), and two will represent labor (the garment workers). They will finalize terms of a new contract which will replace the one now in effect.
Each group member must list the terms of the new contract they help negotiate. Contracts will be submitted to the teacher, who will then decide whether labor or management has out-bargained the other in each group. In some cases, a settlement might be negotiated which is “fair” to both sides.
Easy-to-follow Teacher Instructions and answer key included, along with a 20-question follow up quiz to measure student progress. The quiz can also be given as a homework assignment.