Lesson Plan: Examine Labor Practices in the Garment Industry OVERVIEW: This lesson plan is designed to be used in conjunction with the film Made in L.A., a film that follows the struggle of three Latina immigrants working for fair labor conditions in Los Angeles’s garment factories. Note: This film has bilingual subtitles throughout and is fully accessible to English and Spanish speakers. This lesson compares current conditions in the garment industry with those at the turn of the 20th century. Note: The filmmaker’s version of Made in L.A. contains one incidence of strong profanity about 12 minutes into the film that may be inappropriate for classroom use. To avoid such content, be sure to record the PBS broadcast version off-air or request the “broadcast version” of the film from the P.O.V. lending library. P.O.V. documentaries can be recorded off-air and used for educational purposes for up to one year from the initial broadcast. In addition, P.O.V. offers a lending library of DVDs and VHS tapes that you can borrow anytime during the school year — FOR FREE! OBJECTIVES: By the end of this lesson, students will: • Work in cooperative learning groups to study various topics related to fair labor practices in the garment industry, both in historic and modern times. • Take a quiz to measure their knowledge about the topics studied. GRADE LEVELS: 6-12 SUBJECTS: Current Events, U.S. History, Civics, Economics, Geography MATERIALS NEEDED: Equipment for showing online video clips to the class (method varies by school) Computers with access to the Internet Handout: Garment Industry Labor Quiz (PDF file) ESTIMATED TIME NEEDED: One 50-minute class SUGGESTED CLIPS: Clip 1: María (Length: 02:05) The clip begins just after the film’s title at 02:05 with the shot of the exterior of María’s home. It ends at 06:20 with a close-up of a spinning sewing machine wheel. Clip 2: Pyramid of Power (Length: 01:02) The clip begins at 55:45 with Lupe saying, “I built a pyramid of power…” It ends at 56:47 with “…really, we are very powerful.” Clip 3: Who Is Responsible? (Length: 01:19)
The clip begins at 20:51 with “Latino workers announce a lawsuit against a garment company…” It ends at 22:10 with “…have an incredible impact on the industry as a whole.” Clip 4: Modern Sweatshop (Length: 03:02) The clip begins at 15:38 with “So we want to hear your problems.” It ends at 18:40 with “So we all decided to start the lawsuit against Forever 21.” Clip 5: Lupe visits Ellis Island (Length: 01:08) The clip begins at 38:50 with a shot of the Statue of Liberty. It ends at 39:58 with a close-up shot of a photo from the Ellis Island Museum of Immigration. BACKGROUND: In 2001, garment workers from different factories in Los Angeles joined forces with the Garment Worker Center to file wage claims against retailer Forever 21, who subcontracted with manufacturers to produce inventory for its retail shops. Forever 21 said it wasn’t responsible for the workers’ complaints because the workers were employees of the subcontractors, and not Forever 21. Through unity and persistence, the workers were able to eventually negotiate a labor settlement with Forever 21 that improved labor conditions. Such struggles for better working conditions are not new in the United States. The term “sweatshop” was coined in the late 1800s to describe factories with poor working conditions, low wages, long hours and the supervisor’s arbitrary power over the workers. With the help of legislation and union organizing, working conditions in the garment industry have gradually improved. Sweatshop conditions continue to exist in many U.S. factories, however, indicating that there is still progress to be made. ACTIVITY: Explore past and present labor issues in the garment industry by conducting the following Jigsaw activity: 1. Divide the class into “Home” groups of five students each. Explain that each group is going to be exploring past and current struggles for fair working conditions in the...
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