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Interpreting the Evidence

"Look at This Dump on Jackson Avenue," Drug & Hospital Employees Union, Local 1199, New York City, c. 1967

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Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Flyer “Look At This Dump on Jackson Avenue,” asking the community to join Local 1199 in picketing a hazardous vacant lot on Jackson Avenue, ca. 1967.
Historical Context
American labor unions arose out of the need for workers to organize themselves and work together to demand fair wages, safety in the workplace, and job security. A collective voice could not be ignored by employers as easily as individual protests, and workers who banded together could engage in strikes and other joint activities to strengthen their hand in bargaining with management.  In the 1950s, hospital employees were not yet unionized, and labor laws that were being put into effect at the time did not apply to them.  Early attempts to organize hospital workers focused mostly on skilled labor.  In 1957, Local 1199 began to reach out to these workers. Hospital workers in the early 1950s were badly underpaid and were confronted with a management that regarded unionization as totally inappropriate for health care institutions.

Local 1199 first began as a pharmacists’ union, but it encouraged and supported diversity among its membership from the very beginning.  It is not surprising, therefore, that the union reached out to the population of mostly Black and Hispanic hospital workers. Its first major success occurred in 1958, when it succeeded in organizing the employees of Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx in New York City. This success led to increased membership, and by 1963 membership had quadrupled.  Racial diversity within Local 1199 naturally led it to become involved in the struggle for civil rights during the 1960s, and it subsequently became a political force that fought for equality and the improvement of living conditions in minority neighborhoods in New York City.
Essential Question
How do members of a community enact change?
Check for Understanding
Identify the main idea of this document and explain how these citizens intend to change an unwanted situation.
Historical Challenges
The battle against slums has been an important movement in history. Jacob Riis was a Progressive Era reformer who used his photography to publicize and fight the poor living conditions in slums. Read his book, How the Other Half Lives, and compare the situations he describes to slum areas that exist today in urban cities or third-world countries.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Art: Create a collage or a poster to publicize the problems children face in urban slum areas.
English Language Arts: Write a persuasive letter to the mayor in which you ask for his help in cleaning up this lot and making it into a playground.