Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Unions and Strikes in the Garment Industry
Create and label four areas in the room: strongly agree, agree somewhat, disagree somewhat, strongly disagree. Have students move to the area that best express their opinion for each of the following statements.
- Unions are necessary to protect workers.
- Unions demand too much from employers.
- Unions force employers out of business.
- Unions have outlived their usefulness in today's society.
- All unions are the same.
- All Canadians should have the right to a union.
- Without unions, workers would be exploited.
As students take their places, write the statement on the board. Then ask at least one student in each group to share his or her opinion.
Outline the Opportunity
Direct students to the topic Sewing Seeds: Clothing Workers Fight for Better Conditions on the CBC Digital Archives website. Have students view the clips "Shedding light on the rag trade," "'Tough cookies' of the Great Depression," "Union organizer arrested for 'seditious conspiracy,'" "The 'job ghetto' of women's work," "First strike in 4 decades" and "Madeleine Parent discusses Puretex strike."
Students imagine that they are garment-industry labour organizers in a scenario of their choice as discussed in the clips. They have been put in charge of distributing pamphlets to persuade workers to either go on strike or to join labour unions. Either individually or in small groups, students create a pamphlet using the information from the clips. The pamphlet will explain:
- The reason for the strike or for joining the union.
- What the strike or union hopes to gain for the workers.
- When the strike is to take place (if applicable).
- Some of the vocabulary from the clips.
The pamphlet may also discourage scabs and non-union workers and educate workers about their rights.
Depending on the technology available, students may create their pamphlets using desktop publishing software, or by hand.
Assessment Tip: Share with students that you expect the following from their work:
- The information presented shows an understanding of the events leading to the need for the pamphlet.
- The information is clearly presented and historically accurate.
- The wording encourages and motivates the audience to take action.
- The pamphlet is attractive.
Revisit and Reflect
Post completed pamphlets in the room and allow students time to engage in a gallery walk to view their peers' work. Once students have had a chance to view one another's work, have a class debrief about the activity. Pose these questions:
- What was the biggest challenge in creating the pamphlet?
- What arguments were most persuasive?
- Have your views on unions and strikes changed since completing the activity? If so, how?
Students can create a document in response to their pamphlets, this time pretending to be the company's management. The document might be in the form of a letter to all staff, a memorandum, or another pamphlet. Encourage students to use their business document creation skills to complete the extension.