Teaching Activities (Free)

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
Suffragist and labor leader Agnes Nestor | Zinn Education Project

Suffragist and labor leader Agnes Nestor (1880-1948). Source: Public domain

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 Hands Available 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

Order the book online from Monthly Review.