Lesson Plan: Choice Board - Labor Movement in the U.S.

Labor Movement in the U.S.

Labor Movement in the U.S.


Labor or Trade Unions represent thousands of workers in a variety of industries in the United States who seek improvements in working conditions and wages, among other rights. These organizations are viewed by some as supporters of the working class, and by others as a hindrance to capitalism and to workers.


  • SET-UP:

    This lesson offers several options for you to use with your students whether you are teaching in class, using a hybrid model, or engaging through distance learning. It can be completed in steps as a class or students can move at their own pace and complete the activities independently.

    You can post links to the videos in the lesson along with the related handouts and engage in discussion to share responses on a discussion board or learning management system.

    You can also save and share the following Google resources for students to use with this lesson.

    Vocabulary Chart: Labor Movement in the U.S. (Google Doc)

    Note-Taking Chart: Labor Movement in the U.S. (Google Doc)

    Handout with Questions: Labor Movement in the U.S. (Google Doc)

    Choice Board with Activities: Labor Movement in the U.S. (Google Slides)

    In Google, choose "File" then "Make a Copy" to get your own copy. You can make any needed adjustments in the instructions such as which activities students need to complete, when it is due, etc. and then make it available to them via Google.


    Ask students to view the following video clip to establish background information on the topic. Through whole class discussion, have students share what they know about strikes and unions. This can be historic or current examples to generate connections.

    This can also be done as a think-pair-share activity where students turn and talk to their neighbor and then share their responses with the class if they choose.

    Video Clip 1: Labor Movement in the U.S. (:21)


    Have students view the following video clips and respond to the accompanying questions. They can watch each video independently or view a video with a partner. You can also jigsaw this portion of the lesson by assigning a specific video for students to view or by giving them a choice to select a program they would like to view. Students should take notes on the handout and prepare responses to the questions to share them in class discussion.

    Video Clip 2: Pullman Porters (5:50)

    • Explain the origin of the Pullman cars.

    • Who worked as Pullman Porters and why did they accept these positions?

    • Describe the impact the Pullman Porters had on communities, as well as the development of unions, in the U.S.
  • Video Clip 3: Henry Ford and the Model T (4:40)

    • Describe the personal transportation options that existed prior to Ford's Model T.

    • What was unique about the Model T at the time?

    • How did the production of the Model T change over time? Why was this significant?

    • Why was the Model T so successful?

    • How did the success of the Model T impact the city of Detroit?
  • Video Clip 4: 1914 Ludlow Massacre (6:55)

    • How did the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company control its workers?

    • How did the Union counteract the eviction of striking union workers and strike breakers?

    • What were the consequences of the violence in 1914?
  • Video Clip 5: Auto-Lite Labor Strike of 1934 (4:48)

    • Describe the circumstances among workers in Toledo in 1934.

    • Explain how this situation intensified through May 1934.

    • How did factory workers respond to this occurrence?

    • Explain the impact this strike had on workers and unions in the U.S.
  • Video Clip 6: Dolores Huerta and the United Farm Workers (4:16)

    • Describe Dolores Huerta’s childhood experiences.

    • What was the Bracero Program? How did it impact domestic workers after WWII ended?

    • Explain the actions the United Farm Workers took to affect change for farm workers.

    • What impact did the organization have on the farm worker movement?
  • Video Clip 7: 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike (7:39)

    • Describe the demographics of the city of Memphis in 1968.

    • Describe the workforce of the sanitation workers in Memphis in 1968 and their compensation.

    • What was the role of T. O. Jones?

    • Explain the situation that occurred on February 1, 1968.

    • How did the city respond?

    • What were the goals of the African American sanitation workers who decided to strike?

    • How did the city of Memphis respond to the strike?

    • Describe the situation that unfolded during the march on March 28, 1968.

    • What effect did the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. have on the Civil Rights movement and what occurred in Memphis?

    • Describe the current working conditions for African American sanitation workers in Memphis.

    • What is the legacy of the Sanitation Workers Strike?
  • Video Clip 8: West Virginia 2018 Teacher Strike (6:35)

    • According to Emily Hilliard, why did some West Virginia teachers decide to strike in 2018?

    • What were the outcomes of the strike?

    Create groups of students so there is representation of each video among the group members. Students can take turns sharing the information they learned and take notes on other students' programs.


    As an exit assessment, have students write responses to the following questions.

    • What is the name of the person/industry you learned about?

    • Explain the impact it had.

    • Describe the legacy today.

    • Do you agree/disagree with the idea of workers forming unions? Explain your position.

    Visit the website below and scroll to find the list of issues related to unions. Choose one to learn about and present your findings:

    America's Unions

    • Provide background information on the topic.
    • What action has been taken regarding the issue?
    • Do you agree/disagree with the position and action taken? Explain your position.
    • What additional steps would you recommend?
  • Choose an issue you are passionate about and conduct research to learn more.

    • What is the current status of the issue?
    • How would you approach solving the problem?

Additional Resource


  • Agricultural Labor
  • American Federation Of Labor And Congress Of Industrial Organizations (afl–cio)
  • Assembly Line
  • Boycott
  • Cesar Chavez
  • Charter School
  • Company Town System
  • Disposable Income
  • Entrepreneur
  • Garnish
  • Great Depression
  • Grievance
  • Henry Ford
  • Inaugurate
  • Industrial Labor
  • Inflation
  • Labor Movement
  • Menial Labor
  • Middle Class
  • Militia
  • Omnibus Bill
  • Oppression
  • Pension
  • Presidential Medal Of Freedom
  • Segregate
  • Solidarity
  • Southern Christian Leadership Conference
  • Strike
  • Tent Colony
  • Union
  • United Farm Workers
  • Wage


Civil Rights & Civil LibertiesEducationGeographyInterest Groups & LobbyingU.S. History


Middle SchoolHigh School