Students have created characters that work in a t shirt factory that has been built by our students. Every character has a background story and a family. We've been doing extensive research on conditions of work environments from this era and what a day to day life was like for these workers. Some are parents, some are children.
I have created a character named Evan Fletchberg, the head CEO of Fletchberg T Shirt Co. Thursday Evan Fletchberg let his group of factory workers know that 16 out of 23 workers had become very ill and have not shown up to work. They were over worked to the point of exhaustion due to the 12 hour days and working 6 days a week and are physically ill from the unsafe working conditions. Evan has fired these 16 workers and has already replaced them with eager to work people.
The fired workers were outraged. How were they supposed to survive without their pay of $0.20/hour? They were already struggling to make ends meet on such a low wage. How could a boss fire someone for being sick for one day? If the conditions of the factory were up to code and they had a weekend to recover, they may have been able to continue to work and support their families.
The fired workers were inspired by stories we have read in class and research we had done on people like Clara Lemlich and incidents like the Shirt Waist Fire of 1911. They felt that the only way to get their voices heard was to go on strike.
I let them know about strikes that happen now a days. Strikes are tricky business and can cause quite the stir. I told them about the teacher strike in Portland last year and how difficult it was for a substitute teacher like myself to choose between siding with the teachers or getting paid. I taught them what a "scab" means in a strike. The factory workers who were not fired were having a very difficult time deciding between crossing picket lines of their peers to continue to work in poor conditions for minimal pay to support their families or to support their fellow factory workers and risk it all for a strike. In the end, the class went on strike and it was great.
Even Fletchberg however is not a very well liked man.