Teaching Activities (Free)

The 1934 West Coast Longshore Strike

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow and Norm Diamond.
Students “become” several of the social groups who participated in the 1934 Longshore Workers Strike—some of whom had to answer the question, “Which side are you on?”

Time Periods: 20th Century, Prosperity, Depression, & World War II: 1920 - 1944
Themes: Labor, Organizing, Social Class
West coast waterfront strike of 1934. Photo: Oregon Encyclopedia

West coast waterfront strike of 1934. Photo: Oregon Encyclopedia.

This lesson focuses on a key event in the labor renewal of the 1930s. The workers’ victory in the longshore strike gave a powerful impetus toward the revitalization of an existing union and toward organizing new ones. The union that eventually resulted, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), is still one of the more democratic in the United States.

In the activity, students role-play an industry-wide strike that took place up and down the entire West Coast. This story has most often been told from the standpoint of San Francisco, which was the hub of the strike. This lesson is set in Portland instead. In Portland, the importance of the ties built with other groups in the region, including farmers, is particularly clear.


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:


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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