Birth of a Rank-and-File Organizer

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow and Norm Diamond. 7 pages.
Writing activity for students to complete the narrative of women workers striking at a glove-making factory, exploring possible outcomes.

  • Themes: Labor, Organizing, Social Class, Women's History | Reading Levels: Grades 6-8, High School | Resource Types: Teaching Activities (Free)
Suffragist and labor leader Agnes Nestor (1880-1948). Image: WikiCommons

Suffragist and labor leader Agnes Nestor (1880-1948). Image: WikiCommons.

In response to workplace changes introduced by management, workers took action in many ways. Their strongest response was to form unions. In this lesson, students read about how people organized in a Chicago glove-making factory, and then went on strike. Students read and discuss Agnes Nestor’s story “Birth of a Rank-and-File Organizer,” and then are put in the role of strike participants, who must assess the importance of union recognition: Should they continue to strike for their union even if all other demands have been satisfied? In this activity, students will become aware of a range of causes for strikes, empathize with the problems of workers on strike, and weigh the importance of having a union or not.

The Power In Our HandsAvailable for Download

This is one of the 16 lessons available from The Power In Our Hands. Other lessons available for individual download are:

Opening
Unit I: Basic Understandings
Unit II: Changes in the Workplace/”Scientific Management”
Unit III: Defeats, Victories, Challenges
Unit IV: Our Own Recent Past
Unit V: Continuing Struggle

 

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