Teaching Students About the Congress of Industrial Organizations

The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) was a federation of labor unions in the United States that played a significant role in improving the working conditions of American workers. Understanding the history of the CIO is important, as it helps students to understand the role of labor unions in society.
There are several ways to teach students about the CIO. Here are some ideas:

1. Start with the basics: Begin by providing students with an overview of the CIO. Explain that it was formed in 1935 and was made up of unions that represented workers in a variety of industries, including steel, automobile manufacturing, and textiles. It was led by John L. Lewis, who also served as the president of the United Mine Workers.

2. Discuss the impact of the CIO on workers: Once students have an understanding of what the CIO was, it’s important to discuss its impact on workers. The CIO helped to improve working conditions, increase wages, and secure benefits for workers. The CIO also played a key role in the passage of important labor laws, such as the National Labor Relations Act.

3. Analyze primary sources: One effective way to help students understand the impact of the CIO is to have them analyze primary sources, such as photographs or newspaper articles. For example, you could show students a photograph of striking steel workers and ask them to analyze what the workers are protesting and what demands they might have.

4. Role-play labor negotiations: Another way to help students learn about the CIO is to have them role-play labor negotiations. Divide the class into two groups – one representing the workers and the other representing management – and have them negotiate a contract. This activity will help students to understand the perspective of both workers and management, as well as the importance of compromise in negotiations.

5. Discuss the legacy of the CIO: Finally, it’s important to discuss the legacy of the CIO. Although the CIO eventually merged with the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in 1955, it had a significant impact on the labor movement in the United States. Today, many of the benefits that workers take for granted – such as weekends off, overtime pay, and the right to unionize – were won by labor unions like the CIO.

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