Lesson Plan

Labor Union Activism: Advocating for Worker Rights


This eight-minute video explores how with the economic pain of the pandemic, new groups of American workers are pushing to form labor unions at restaurants, stores and warehouses. It’s the biggest surge of activism since the 1930s. At the height of the Great Depression, with as many as 13 million Americans out of work, President Franklin Roosevelt pushed New Deal reforms through Congress, including the 1935 National Labor Relations Act. It guaranteed private sector workers the right to form unions. This lesson asks students to examine the push for workers’ rights beginning with the Industrial Revolution in the United Kingdom, continuing to the Great Depression in the United States and on to contemporary efforts.


Students will:

  • Analyze primary and secondary sources to learn about the Factory Acts, the National Labor Relations Act and United Nations resolutions on workers’ rights and trade unions.
  • Read/listen to workers discuss union membership.
  • Compare and contrast the rise of union membership in the 1930s with the union movement of the early 2020s.
  • Civics & Government
  • U.S. History
  • World History
  • Great Depression
  • Unions
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  • World History
  • Civics and Government
  • U.S. History
For Teachers

Essential Questions

  • How have governments and organizations attempted to improve working conditions?
  • Why was there a rise in union membership in the U.S. during the 1930s? How is that similar to or different from a rise in union action today?

Additional Resources

Transcript for “Labor Union Activism Is on the Rise, Recalling the Great Depression”Retro Report 
Labor Union ActivismChalk Talk 
Graffiti Board StrategyFacing History & Ourselves 

Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

Analyze the role of citizens in the U.S. political system, with attention to various theories of democracy, changes in Americans’ participation over time, and alternative models from other countries, past and present.

Evaluate citizens’ and institutions’ effectiveness in addressing social and political problems at the local, state, tribal, national, and/or international level.

Critique relationships among governments, civil societies, and economic markets.

Evaluate social and political systems in different contexts, times, and places, that promote civic virtues and enact democratic principles.

Analyze how people use and challenge local, state, national, and international laws to address a variety of public issues.

Analyze historical, contemporary, and emerging means of changing societies, promoting the common good, and protecting rights.

Describe the roles of institutions such as corporations, non-profits, and labor unions in a market economy.

Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.

Assess options for individual and collective action to address local, regional, and global problems by engaging in self-reflection, strategy identification, and complex causal reasoning

Questions? Tips? Concerns? Reach out to our Director of Education, David Olson: dolson@retroreport.com