CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Unions in the Garment Industry

Business Studies
1 lesson
To draw conclusions through guided listening/viewing
Students research the conditions that led to strikes and union formation in the garment industry and draw a conclusion through guided listening/viewing.

Lesson Plan

Before Exploring

Create and label with posters four areas in the room: strongly agree, agree somewhat, disagree somewhat, strongly disagree. Have students move to the posters 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 four decades",  "Madeleine Parent discusses Puretex strike."

Distribute copies of the download sheet Unions in the Garment Industry and ensure that students understand how to use it. Allow time for students to access the clips and record their responses on the worksheet.

Assessment Tip
Model the use of the I Watch or Listen/I Think/Therefore format used on the download sheet for another video or reading prior to this lesson. You may substitute "I Read" for "I Watch or Listen." Revisit the model response for this lesson, and articulate the criteria you will be looking for when assessing students' responses in this format. Criteria may include:

Accuracy of statements in I Watch or Listen: They should reflect actual content of clips.

Relevance of statements in I Think: Each should relate directly to something watched or listened to.

Insight of statements in Therefore: Students should come to conclusions unique to their thinking, not responses that repeat statements above.


Revisit and Reflect


After viewing and listing to the clips and completing the template, discuss the following questions as a class:


Describe the arguments for and against unions from workers' and from managers' perspectives.

What is the role of a union?

What can you conclude about the impact of unions on the lives of the workers, management, and their families?

Has that role changed over the years?

What were some of the reasons that labour unions were formed?

Was there any other way to deal with the issues that labour unions wanted to solve?

What obligation, if any, does a company have to its workers?



Students can research unions active in your community. Students can interview a family member to learn about their membership in unions. Ensure they discuss reasons that they have or have not been union members. They should summarize their interview results and share them with the class.

Download PDF

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