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On Behalf of the Workers: The Role of Labor Unions

Directions
The following questions are based on historical documents or excerpts from them, and test your ability to work with such documents.  Some of these documents and excerpts have been edited for the purposes of these questions. As you analyze the documents or excerpts, try to understand the source of the document and any point of view that is presented in them. 
 
Historical Context
American labor unions are organizations that work together to demand fair wages, safety in the workplace, and job security.  A collective voice cannot be ignored by employers as easily as individual protests, because workers who band together can engage in strikes and other joint activities to strengthen their hand in bargaining with management.  Unions give workers a voice in overcoming discrimination in the workplace; workers then often extend their own union efforts to improve living conditions in their communities.
 
Task Description
Using information from the following documents/excerpts, and using your own knowledge of history, in Part A answer the questions that follow each listed document/excerpt.  Your answers to these questions will help you complete the writing assignment given in Part B.

The following two web resources can be used in conjunction with the documents:
http://www.njlaborers.org/node/108
http://www.lclaa.org/images/pdf/LCLAA's_National_Constitution.pdf

 
Part A: Instructions
Read and analyze each document or excerpt, and then in the space provided answer each of the questions that follow them.
 
Part B: Essay
Using information from at least five of the documents in Part A to support your thinking,and using your own knowledge of history, write an essay that describes how labor unions have helped working Latinos. Use a separate sheet of paper to complete your essay, which should be well organized. Include an introduction that defines the term labor union, at least three paragraphs in which you explain three specific ways that labor unions have helped their members and how each action benefited the workers, and a conclusion. Support your response with relevant facts, examples, and details. In no case should the documents simply be cited and paraphrased. You should include additional historical details, and you may discuss documents not provided in the question.
 


     Flyer - Mejore su futuro...Aprendiendo a coser/ Make sewing your career
Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College, CUNY, CEN_KaAn_BflyF9_1396
 
Document Description
Flyer, "Make Sewing Your Career," ca. 1970s.
 
Questions
  1. What is the flyer advertising?
  2. Why would the union sponsor sewing lessons to teach people how to use industrial pattern-making and sewing machines?
 

     Housing, Discrimination in Employment

Housing, Discrimination in Employment

Kheel Center for Labor Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University, KHE_5206-D_B53F58-D-5-A_158
 
Document Description
Press release, August 7, 1963, from Local 1199, AFL-CIO.
 
Questions
  1. In August 1963, what did the president of Local 1199 ask the governor of New York and the mayor of New York City to do?
  2. Why do you think it is important for labor unions to help end racism and discrimination in the workplace?
 

     Look at the Dump on Jackson Avenue

Look at the Dump on Jackson Avenue

Kheel Center for Labor Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University, KHE_5206-PR_B2F52-D-5-B_168
 
Document Description
Flyer, “Look at This Dump on Jackson Avenue,” ca. 1967. National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, Local 1199
 
Questions
  1. What was the union asking its members to do?
  2. Why do you think a labor union was interested in improvement of a slum lot in New York City, and how would this have benefited Latino members?
 

     If you Live in the Southeast Bronx -- Special Meeting

If you Live in the Southeast Bronx -- Special Meeting

Kheel Center for Labor Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University, KHE_5510_B2F4_165
 
Document Description
Flyer, “If You Live in the Southeast Bronx…,” c. 1960s. National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, Local 1199
 
Questions
  1. What is the purpose of this document?
  2. What did the union hope to do by working with the community organization program?
 

     Strike registration

Strike registration

Kheel Center for Labor Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University, KHE_5510_B48F7_162
 
Document Description
Flyer, “Strike Registration,” 1960. National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, Local 1199,
 
Questions
  1. What is the purpose of this document?
  2. Why do you think it became necessary for the union members to strike?
  3. What committee assisted union members with financial problems during the strike?