Skip to main content

Part 1: A History of Work

Note: These recommended Web sites have been checked for availability and for advertising and other inappropriate content. Because Web sites' policies and content change frequently, however, we suggest that you preview the sites shortly before using them.

Activity 1.A.1:  Actors in the Labor Drama

Movies About Labor

And the Earth Did Not Swallow Him, 1994:

The Garment Jungle, 1957

The Grapes of Wrath, 1940

Hoffa, 1992

The Killing Floor, 1985

Matewan, 1987.  A labor leader seeking to organize the workers of a company town sets off a powderkeg of racial hostility, corruption and betrayal in this dramatic retelling of the bitter clash between unionist miners and the tyrannical coal company owners in West Virginia in the 1920s.
Metropolis, Germany, 1926,  21st century dystopia in which workers are enslaved underground

Modern Times, 1936, with Charlie Chaplin

The Molly Maguires, 1970

Norma Rae, 1975

On the Waterfront, 1954

Create Lesson Plans Based on Movies and Films:

The Devil Wears Prada, 2006

The Cradle Will Rock, 2000

Outsourced, 2006  Man loses  jobs, travels to India to train his replacement

10,000 Black Men Named George, 2002, Pullman Porter strike

Salt of the Earth, 1954, Strike against Empire Zinc Mine in New Mexico. Only film to be blacklisted.

Spirited Away, 2001, as a labor film:

The Triangle Shirt Factory Fire Scandal, 1979

Up in the Air, 2009

Television Shows About the Workplace

Boston Legal

Mad Men

The Office

The Simpsons

Activity 1.B.1: Labor History Overview

Documentary Photographs and Movies

American Social History Project
Daughters of Free Men.  Lucy Hall leaves her New England farm to work in the Lowell textile mills of the 1830s and confronts a new world of opportunity and exploitation.

1877: The Grand Army of Starvation.  In the summer of 1877, eighty thousand railroad workers went on strike and hundreds of thousands soon followed.  The Great Uprising began a new era of conflict about equality in the industrial age.

Up South: African American Migration in the Era of the Great War. Narrated by a Mississippi barber and a sharecropper woman, Up South tells the dramatic story of African-American migration to industrial cities during World War I.

Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl. Framed by the 1909 shirtwaist strike, this program presents a panoramic portrait of immigrant working women in the turn-of-the-century city.

Other Films

Union Maids.  Three women in the Communist Party who organized in Chicago’s meatpacking district in the 1930s.


The History Place: Child Labor in America 1908-1912: Photographs of Lewis W. Hines.

Activity1.B.2: The Great Depression and the New Deal

Graphs showing unemployment during the Great Depression

US and U6 Unemployment During the Great Depression:

The New Deal

Roosevelt, Franklin D.  Outlining the New Deal Program. Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats, May 7, 1933:

Teaching with Documents: FDR’s Fireside Chat on the Purposes and Foundations of the Recovery Program:

Fireside Chat, Outlining the New Deal programs, May 7, 1933:

Fireside Chat on the Purposes and Foundations of the Recovery Program, July 24, 1933:

National Labor Relations Act:

 Social Security Act:

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended:

New Deal: