Topic: Taking a Stand with Labor Strikes

Connections to the Social Studies Framework

Social Studies Practice: Civic Participation

Key Idea: 8.2d In response to shifts in working conditions, laborers organized and employed a variety of strategies in an attempt to improve their conditions.

Reading Standard: Key Ideas and Details

Historical Context: In 1946 employees at General Electric launched a strike to fight for a pay increase and better working conditions. During World War II, General Electric experienced unprecedented growth but did not pass these gains on to their employees. GE froze the pay of their employees during the war as the cost of living rose. In 1951, the American Locomotive Company, also located in Schenectady, experienced a strike by their employees due to low wages. Hundreds of employees went on strike to protest unfair wages. 

Compelling Question: How does the act of standing together serve as a catalyst for change?

Setting the Stage: Show video on the United Mine Workers' Strike from PBS Learning Media and discuss why the strike to place and the outcome of the strike. 

Document Analysis: Analyze each of the photographs below using this photograph analysis graphic organizer. Click on an image to take a closer look. All images are courtesy of the Schenectady County Historical Society.

ALCO Workers on Strike
ALCO Workers on Strike
Man with Injunction Order

Winter Strike
Line of Laborers on Strike
Group of Laborers on Strike

Assessment: Create a group protest poster or picket sign for either the GE or ALCO strike using evidence from the photographs. You may also use information from these secondary sources. 

ALCO workers achieve raise with 37-day strike in ’51

A Brief History of Bargaining

The protest poster or picket sign needs to include an original slogan and image that reflects the history of the strike you have chosen. 

This lesson was created by educator Marissa Gordon through a grant from the Bender Family Foundation.