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Interpreting the Evidence

Union Representation for Jean Pier, Inc. Workers, n.d.

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Contemporary United States (1965 - present)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:

    Written Document

  • Regions:

    New York City

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Union Representation for Jean Pier, Inc. Workers, n.d. in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Poster of workers at Jean Pier announcing their win of union representation over the owners of the factory, in English and Spanish, n.d.
Historical Context
Immigrants often come the United States for its job opportunities, and many come with college degrees and professional experience. Some immigrants are unable to work in their fields of expertise due to current U.S. immigration policy, which requires that every newly hired worker show proof of citizenship. Undocumented immigrants are frequently forced to take low-paying, often dangerous work––regardless of their experience or skills––because they do not have the paperwork to allow them to perform the jobs they do best.    

Immigrant workers have often been taken unfair advantage of by factory owners and other employers.  They have typically endured low wages and poor working conditions.  Sweatshop conditions have been a common discovery by labor groups.  Illegals, or those using false documents for employment, have been especially vulnerable to the practices of unfair bosses, since their immigration status often hangs in the balance. Asking for better wages and complaining about unsafe conditions and unfair hiring and firing practices constitute trouble, and bosses can threaten to report workers who cause trouble for them to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

U.S. corporations depend on the cheap labor they get from undocumented immigrants, according to the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). But when immigrants strive to improve their working conditions, employers use the threat of deportation to silence them.  Often the INS receives information about illegals just after union elections in a factory, and the remaining workers feel threatened to stop their support of unions in the workplace. Groups have slowly been able to win the right to labor union representation over such bosses.
Essential Question
How do immigrants impact the economy and culture of a community?
Check for Understanding
Summarize the main purpose of this poster and explain why this message is targeted toward certain ethnic groups.
Historical Challenges
Relate this situation to the progress made by unions in the U.S. in the late 1800s. What situations did they work to change? In what ways were they successful? How did they achieve their goals? Did they face setbacks? If so, what were they?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Art: Draw a political cartoon about this situation that shows the main points in exaggerated ways.
English Language Arts: Read the poem “They Will Say” by Carl Sandburg (at Relate it to the union movement of today.