Lesson Title: The Industrial Revolution and the Formation of Unions Grade Level

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Lesson Title:

The Industrial Revolution and the Formation of Unions

Grade Level:

Grade Ten

Unit of Study:

Industrial Revolution

History-Social Science Standard:

10.3 Students analyze the effects of the Industrial Revolution in England, France, Germany, Japan, and the United States

10.3.4 4 Trace the evolution of work and labor, including the demise of the slave trade and the effects of immigration, mining and manufacturing, division of labor, and the union movement.
Setting the Context:

The Industrial Revolution in Europe during the nineteenth century had a profound effect on all aspects of life. The move from a cottage system to a machine-driven industry affected the workingman and his family in all aspects of life.

Family units often worked the factories. Women and children were used for the most demanding jobs in the workplace. Many drug coal cars in the coalmines of England. Fathers, in the meantime, would use picks and shovels to get at the coal. In the textile factories, children worked for their parents at such jobs as picking up waste and fixing the most dangerous parts of machinery.
These working conditions, coupled with very low wages, pushed workers to unite. Groups in Great Britain formed worker associations that represented the interests of the workers in various industries. The associations eventually turned into labor unions. These unions, however, ran into serious problems in the beginning. In both France (1791) and Britain (1799 and 1800), laws were passed to ban unions. It would not be until much later that the idea of unions would be recognized.
Focus Questions:

What were the working conditions like during the Industrial Revolution?

How do people handle bad working and living conditions?
Have workers in California and the United States experienced these bad working conditions? What did they do?
What are some of the conditions farm workers endure?
Expected Learning Outcomes:

Students will identify the reasons why unions are formed and specifically why the UFW was formed. Students will apply these reasons to a variety of working situations in their area.

Students will compare and contrast why unions started during the Industrial Revolution and why César E. Chávez started the UFW.

Students, using a T-chart will list the reasons why unions are formed and why the UFW was formed. Students will make a class presentation on jobs in the workplace that have the potential of unionizing. Students will write an essay comparing and contrasting

Key Concepts:


industrial revolution
Essential Vocabulary:


collective bargaining


Le Chapelier Law

Combination Act
Primary Sources:

History of the Farm Worker Movement, Fred Ross Sr. at Dayton, Ohio. October 1974, Part I Background.

Address by César E. Chávez, The Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, November 9, 1984

Pictures of women and girls in coalmines during the Industrial Revolution

Pictures of housing in migrant farm worker camps.

Picture of farm workers in the fields.


Tell the students that they will receive a certain number of bonus points if they can complete cutting out a given number of letters in 10 minutes. If they do not accomplish it, they will be penalized and will receive a 0 for the day. Have students cut out letters from construction paper to very specific standards. These letters must be perfect. Give them 10 minutes to complete a virtually impossible number to complete. Only one or two people, of your choosing, should receive the points.

*Teacher’s Note: Ensure that, at the end of the lesson, the students understand this was only a ploy to make them feel the part of an exploited worker.
Making Connections:

Unions are now an integral part of the business world. However, it was not that long ago that there were few unions in the United States. One of the sectors not represented by unions for many years was the farm worker. Farm workers were the only group excluded from the National Labor Relations Act, giving workers the right to organize and collectively bargain. Therefore previous attempts to formulate a farm workers union failed. In 1962 when César E. Chávez established the first successful union in farm labor, history people were amazed.

Vocabulary Activities:

Create a vocabulary journal of the new words and concepts as the lesson develops. The class should discuss the terms and concepts at the end to make sure that the correct meanings are realized.

Guided Instruction:

  1. Do the Motivation activity above.

  1. Ask the students how they felt about the letter cutting exercise and have them write it down.

  1. Students should have read the appropriate material from their textbook on the Industrial Revolution and the teacher has provided additional information from the Setting the Context.

  1. Have the students look at the pictures and discuss what they see. After completing the discussion, give the students the two primary documents from the primary source above.

  1. Using a T-chart, have the students identify and list the reasons unions were formed during the Industrial Revolution and why the UFW was formed.

  1. HOMEWORK: Have the students look around in their own area or nationally in areas where there is the potential to unionize. Report back to the class with at least one visual aide (e.g., poster, workers hat) on their findings.

  1. Students will write an essay comparing why unions were formed in the Industrial Revolution and why the UFW was formed.


  1. Students can gain more understanding of the formation of the UFW by reading the high school biography of César E. Chávez on the CDE Web site.

  1. Formulate a panel discussion with those who might be opposed to unions forming. What are their reasons to oppose?

  1. Research the Factory Act of 1833 and others that helped European workers in the nineteenth century.

Integrating Language:

  1. Pre-reading skills will activate prior knowledge through classroom discussion. Active discussion will be used in reviewing the primary source documents.

  1. Speaking and listening skills will also be used when students share their findings on potential unionization with the class.

  1. Writing skills will enhance through comparison essay that makes historical connections.

Service Learning:

Identify the Problem

Many people in the community do not know the history of the UFW or traditional unions.

Develop a Plan

Brainstorm the best way to help people learn the history of these unions. You will want to research the history of unions in your area as well as the UFW. If there are no unions in your area, you may want to research why there are none.

Initiate Action

Follow through with developing the history in the format of your choosing. Present the end product to the unions, business organizations, and to area libraries.


Students will review their product and, if possible, have professionals in the particular media area also review their material. They will then write a short narrative piece on their feelings about what they found and what they did not find.

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