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Lesson Plan:Strike

For Teachers Only - Introduction:
This lesson is designed to introduce your students to historical research with primary sources. They will be presented with a set of six primary sources relating to a milestone in Minnesota history. Students will be provided with source data, online activity questions to direct their study, and a worksheet designed to help them draw conclusions about the sources they have seen and about primary source research in general. The sections of this site are not intended to be complete histories of the people or events involved, but rather serve as examples of what students might find in their own research attempts.

What caused the strike of 1916?
S Strikes were common on the Iron Range. Low wages, dangerous working conditions, and confusing contract systems often led to arguments between labor and management. Many of these strikes were peaceful, but some erupted in violence as tensions rose and negotiations became tenuous. Labor organizers from the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) were often brought in from other parts of the country to represent the striking miners and get their voices heard.

What You Will Need for This Lesson:

  • Access to a computer lab with Internet capability for at least one 40 minute class period.
  • Photocopies of the worksheet and a printed key (download both in the Student Materials section of the site).
  • If you have not already done so, we encourage you to explore the site for yourself ahead of time to become familiar with the navigation and features available to you and your students.

Skills Objectives:
The student will be able to:

  1. access primary sources online for research and study
  2. identify and summarize the different kinds of sources in the exercise
  3. identify advantages and disadvantages to using particular primary sources
  4. explain and synthesize source information to evaluate its usefulness and reliability

Using this Lesson in Your Classroom:
When the students are in the computer lab, lead them through the following sequence (you may wish to use an overhead projector screen):

  1. Go to the Communities web site.
  2. Click on Communities on the left hand side of the screen.
  3. Click on Hibbing.
  4. Click on Strike.
  5. Read the introductory material on Strike and click Enter.
  6. This will bring you to a screen with a newspaper article about the strike. This is the first primary source the students will encounter. Let them know that they can see a larger version of this article by clicking on the View button underneath the thumbnail image. Show students the Activity button and have them click on it to view questions and possible answers about each source.
  7. Once students have studied this article and read the appropriate questions about it in the Activity section, direct them to the other sources that are accessible through the blue menu bar running across the top of the page. Each of these buttons will take them to another source to explore.
  8. Remind students to use the Activity button on each source to help direct their research.
  9. When the students have completed studying each source and reading the questions for each item, they should be able to complete the worksheet they were given (see below).

What Your Students Will See In This Lesson Online:
Below is a listing of each source provided on the Strike section of the web site and a transcript of the activity questions for each source. (The questions are found on the site by clicking on the Activity button.)

News 1
Click on the News 1 button to open the primary source.
This article describes the demands being made by the striking miners.

    1.1) Why do you think workers in the underground mines (wet and dry places) would get more money per day than workers in the open-pit mines?

    Possible Answer: Mining underground was much more dangerous than open-pit mining and also required greater skill. The threat of injury or death in an underground mine was great because of the possibility of cave-ins, mudslides, and other accidents with explosives.

    1.2) What can we learn about a miner's job from the demands of the strikers?

    Possible Answer: We can learn that they were probably expected to work more than eight hours a day, there was a Saturday night shift for work, and miners were not paid for their travel into and out of the mines. They were paid less than twice a month, and were under a contract system.

    1.3) Do you think this article presents any opinion of the striker's demands?

    Possible Answer: The article seems to be simply listing the demands as they were presented. We can't really tell from this article whether or not the author agrees or disagrees with those demands.

    1.4) What sources might we use to find out what the Oliver Mining Company's response to these demands had been?

    Possible Answer: It's possible that there was an article in the paper the next day or week describing how the mining company responded to these demands.

News 2

Click on the News 2 button to open the primary source.
This article discusses the role of charities and the strikers.

    2.1) Why might miners think it was necessary to apply for help from a charity?

    Possible Answer: When a person goes on strike, they are not getting paid the wages that they depend upon for their family's survival. If a strike lasts a long time, the hardship on those families can be considerable.

    2.2) What opinion is the charity taking on the issue of the strike by making this statement?

    Possible Answer: The charity is disagreeing with the strikers and suggesting that they go back to work.

    2.3) Why would strike leaders deny that any of the strikers were in need of charity?

    Possible Answer: Labor organizations did not want the mining companies to know if the strikers were suffering because it might encourage the companies to avoid negotiations in the hopes that the strikers would give up their demands.

    2.4) What kinds of things do you think the labor organizations could provide for the strikers?

    Possible Answer: The labor organizations could provide some food and loans for striking workers, but usually this would not be enough to meet all of their needs during the strike.

News 3
Click on the News 3 button to open the primary source.
This article describes a parade of strikers in Hibbing.

    3.1) Why do you think Mayor Power was willing to guarantee the safety of the strikers during their demonstration?

    Possible Answer: Power was a strong supporter of the strikers and their cause. Having police protection during the march would also prevent the demonstration from becoming a riot.

    3.2) Why would it be important for one of the strike leaders to encourage strikers not to "create any disturbance" during the strike?

    Possible Answer: The strikers would have a stronger position in negotiations if they did not cause injuries or damage to the workers or property of the mining company. It would be easier for them to have their voices heard and their demands listened to if they protested without violence.

    3.3) What do you think the strike leader might have meant when he said that they want "more pork chops?"

    Possible Answer: The strikers would like to earn enough money to buy more food and meat for their families.

    3.4) Why would letting the mining companies "incite disorder" be important to the strikers?

    Possible Answer: By being peaceful in their demonstrations, the mining companies would be responsible if disorder or violence broke out.

News 4
Click on the News 4 button to open the primary source.
This article describes some conflicts caused by striking miners.

    4.1) Why do you think the strikers would choose to take dinner pails rather than doing something else against the strikebreakers?

    Possible Answer: Taking the dinner pails is a less violent way to get their idea across and encourage workers to stay home.

    4.2) Why would "extra energy" be needed at this time to care for the picket routes and make sure they were not violent?

    Possible Answer: The strike had been in effect for awhile and tensions were running high. The strike organizers needed to be extra careful about the needs of the strikers or the stress and strain on them could cause them to resort to violence.

    4.3) The fact that the police were there to supervise changes in shift tells us a couple of things about the situation. What information does this fact give us about work at the time of the strike?

    Possible Answer: Because police were there to supervise, there must have been some fear that the strike might turn violent. The other information we learn from this is that since the police wagon was there at 6 A.M. and 7 P.M. to protect workers changing shifts, we can assume that workers had 12- or 13-hour shifts in the mines, which is one of the reasons they were on strike.

    4.4) What effect might the council's decision to protect workers have on the strike and the strikers?

    Possible Answer: This decision might make the strikers very angry because they felt that they had a right to go on strike. With the strikebreakers protected by police and able to go to work, the strike would have less impact on the mining companies and therefore weaken the strikers' position in negotiations.

Book 1
Click on the Book 1 button to open the primary source.
This songbook was published by the Industrial Workers of the World.

    5.1) The tunes for the songs in this book are all well-known melodies to most Americans. Why do you think the IWW would have chosen these tunes for the book?

    Possible Answer: By using tunes that most people would know and simply changing the words, it would be easy for members to sing along and remember the songs. This would make it easier to use the songs at meetings and rallies for labor issues.

    5.2) Who are the "slavers of the present" in the song?

    Possible Answer: The song suggests that the "slavers of the present" are today's company owners and employers.

    5.3) Why would children "bend above the whizzing wheel" in the song? What does this tell us about work and life at this time?

    Possible Answer: This line refers to child labor, which was also a big concern during this period.

    5.4) Why would the IWW create a songbook like this for its meetings?

    Possible Answer: Music can often be used to bring people together. Having a songbook like this would provide a common bond for members of the IWW and a way to express their views.

Thought Questions for online Exploration:
During the online lesson, your students should complete the accompanying worksheet for this section. (Download from the student materials the pdf file containing the worksheet and key.) The questions for this worksheet are provided below. Since questions relating to specific sources are used during the online activity, the following worksheet questions are designed to help students synthesize and apply the material they have learned from the online activity and to analyze the kinds of information and the credibility of various types of primary sources when taken as a whole.

  1. The newspaper articles in this section portray the strike from two different perspectives: one describes a peaceful demonstration and the other describes conflicts brought about by the strikers. What role do you think the newspaper has in presenting information about events like a strike in a fair and unbiased way? How can we tell if the author of an article supports or disagrees with the strikers? How can this affect how we use the article in our research?

  2. None of the articles in this section contains photographs. How do you think the readerŐs perception of the strike might have changed if they had seen photographs of conflicts between strikers and mine owners? What effect can images on the TV news and in the newspaper have on readers and viewers today?

  3. What other sources could we find that might show the impact the strikes had on the local community and businesses? What might show us the impact of the strikes on the strikers and on the mining companies?

  4. Labor organizers from organizations like the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) were often involved in strikes like this one. What sources might tell us more about the role of labor organizers and their work on the range? What sources could tell us about the organizations like the IWW? Why might this information be important for our research about the strike?

Extending the Lesson: Historical Themes Strike
You can also use the sources provided on this site to encourage higher-order thinking about a number of historical themes and issues that relate to Strike. Below are possible activities and discussion starters to extend student application of the content material provided in the sources. The information provided in the sources about Strike does not provide a comprehensive picture of these issues, but it can serve as an introduction to a theme or as supplementary material to enhance your work with a theme that is already part of your curriculum.

Possible Themes:
1. Work in America
2. The labor movement

Theme One:
Work in America

The student will be able to:

  1. discuss and describe issues of personal importance regarding present or future occupations
  2. bexplain and evaluate the role of work in American history
Class Discussion:
In small groups, have students discuss the following questions. You may wish to provide these questions on an overhead transparency or supply a handout for student reference.

  • List your top three priorities in life right now. What are your main goals and your main interests at this time in your life?

  • Look at your list. How do you think these goals and interests will change in ten years? How have they changed in the last ten years? Which (if any) of these goals concerns your future occupation or preparation for it?

  • What plans have you made to prepare for a job (either part-time while in school or a permanent position)? What knowledge do you need to get a job in your chosen field? How will you gain that knowledge?

  • How important is your job to the rest of your life? What are you willing to sacrifice to have the "job of your dreams?" How do you plan to balance your work with your family or home life? What changes might you someday need to make in each to accommodate?

  • What labor issues do you think might affect you in your future career? What role do issues like a 40-hour week and the minimum wage play in your future career? What other labor issues would you like to see addressed before you begin your career?
Optional activities:
  • The United States is a country that at times can seem almost obsessed with getting ahead. Ask students to use recent newspaper and magazine articles to study the effects of overwork on a person and their family. What techniques are being suggested to help deal with these situations? Students should create a list of things that are being suggested to help overworked adults gain balance in their lives.

  • Ask students to research resources that are available to help those who are unemployed for some reason. What efforts can be made to help someone "get by" until another job is available? What might your students do if they are ever in that situation themselves? What kind of plan can they develop to help them be prepared for such an event? Ask students to prepare their own written plan for getting through tough times.

  • Have students study the role of work throughout American history. What things have changed? What improvements has technology made in the workplace? What efforts have been made to change who works and what their hours and wages might be? Ask students to debate as a class whether they think all of these changes have been for the better (students may have strong opinions about issues such as the age at which they are allowed to work and how many hours of work they can do in a week).

  • Encourage students to discuss with their parents or other family members what their daily job responsibilities are like. Ask students to find out why their family member chose that particular job, what they like and don't like about it, and whether or not they intend to stay in that job for the rest of their working life. Ask students to prepare an essay describing what they learned and evaluating whether or not they think the job described would be a good job for them in the future.

Theme Two:
The labor movement:

The student will be able to:

  1. define and examine the labor movement and its effect on their community
  2. examine the role of labor in their community and in their future
Class Discussion:
In small groups, have students discuss the following questions. You may wish to provide these questions on an overhead transparency or supply a handout for student reference.

  • Think about different jobs in your community. List five or six of these jobs on the board. What do you think are the positive and negative aspects of each of these? Are any of these jobs you would someday like to have? Why or why not?

  • Considering the jobs you listed in the first question, which of these carries the most risk of injury? What improvements have been made to make this job more safe for the workers? What do you think the daily work of someone in this job is like?

  • In most labor conflicts, two of the main issues of discussion are wages and working conditions. What would you consider to be a "fair wage" for each of the jobs you listed? What working conditions (hours in a workday, safety of equipment, cleanliness of workplace, etc...) do you think would be most important for you if you were to take one of these jobs?

  • What things does a company have to consider when hiring employees or managing its business? How can a company balance the needs of its employees and its production to make a profit and stay in business? What other things (stock market, nation's economy, number of consumers for the product) might influence how well a company succeeds and how much they pay their employees?

Optional activities:

  • Have students research a strike (it is recommended that students avoid researching a current local labor issue as it could be extremely controversial) in history and examine both sides of the conflict. Which side, in your opinion, was right and why? What, if any, issues in the conflict were simply not possible to resolve? What could have been done differently in settling the conflict? Do you think a strike was necessary in this case? Students can report to the class in an oral report, poster demonstration, or debate format.

  • Ask students to role-play a labor negotiation. Students can choose the roles of company manager, labor leader, and negotiator. Encourage students to present their issues in a respectful manner and to work toward a fair resolution of the conflict. You may wish to have students research labor negotiations in the newspaper or newsmagazines to prepare for this and learn some of the methods involved.

  • Have students in pairs research a labor issue such as the eight-hour day, child labor, or equal pay for equal work. Then ask the students to stage a debate for each side of their topic and argue the issue in front of the class. Encourage students to think about how each issue has two sides, and although we may not agree with them, both sides should be heard in order to make an informed judgment.

  • Have students choose a profession they might wish to someday have and determine what a job in that profession would realistically pay. Then ask students to work out a month-long budget including rent or mortgage payments, utilities, car payments or bus passes, food and clothing, and other expenses they might encounter. Have them figure out how to make their income cover their expenses and what they might need to sacrifice in order to make ends meet. Discuss the role of training and education in improving your finacial outlook. This might be a good time to compare the earning power of a high school dropout to the earning power of a vocational school or college graduate.

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