Guiding Question:

How did the importation of Chinese workers affect the shoemakers' union the Knights of St. Crispin's ideals of worker solidarity, economic justice and civic equality?

Task

 

You have just been informed by the union, the Knights of Saint Crispin, that C.T. Sampson, the owner of the shoe factory where you or people that you know have worked, has replaced all of his workers with 75 low-wage, non-union workers from China, contracted to work your job for the next three years. You and your co-workers had thought you were negotiating with Sampson about issues like the length of the workday, how much money each worker would be paid, and whether or not you would keep your jobs during the current slowdown. Members of the community are not excited by the idea. A last minute negotiation is organized to save the jobs at the factory. Together with Sampson, a non-union worker, a local business owner and maybe that gentleman from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you will try to draft a solution to the strike that can work. Then you will be asked to consider the significance and point of view of the group not represented at the negotiation table. Finally, reflect on the role of labor unions in securing protections for workers, or in denying protections to other workers....

 

shoemakersportrait

Image credit: "Occupational group portrait of four shoemakers, one full-length, standing, other three seated, holding shoes and shoe making equipment" c. 1840-1860.

Digital ID: (color film copy transparency post-1992) cph 3g03946 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3g03946, Reproduction Number: LC-USZC4-3946 (color film copy transparency post-1992) LC-USZ6-2044 (b&w film copy neg. post-1992), Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA