Students watch a short video about the Street Car Strike of 1917, which led to the establishment of unions across Minnesota. Students learn about the influence of the Citizens Alliance in Minneapolis and neighboring St. Paul, and use information from the video to analyze the pros and cons of the Citizen’s Alliance.
This lesson is part of "Great States: Minnesota | Unit 8: Times of Changes" which will give students the opportunity to determine the impacts of the major social, cultural, and political changes that shaped the United States in general and Minnesota in particular during the early 1900s.
188.8.131.52.3: Describe the effects of reform movements on the political and social culture of Minnesota in the early twentieth century.
- Video: Minnesota Legacy Short | Street Car Strike of 1917
- An interactive whiteboard, projector, or another type of screen to show videos to the class
- Class set of The Citizens Alliance and Labor Unions in Minnesota video note sheet
- Tell the students they will be watching a video about the Street Car Strike of 1917. This strike occurred just before the start of World War I, when streetcar workers went on strike against the Twin Cities Rapid Transit Company. The strike led to the establishment of unions in Minnesota.
- Hand out The Citizens Alliance and Labor Unions in Minnesota video note sheet. Instruct students to fold the paper in half, so they don’t see the bottom portion while watching the video.
- Play the video, Minnesota Legacy Short | Street Car Strike of 1917 [6:22]. Remind students to take notes on important information in the video.
- After viewing the video, have students use their notes to complete the writing activity on the note sheet.
Pros: order in Minneapolis, higher profit margins for business owners
Cons: deny rights to workers, remove civil liberties (right to assembly)
- Major employers in the city made a pact to internally cooperate to deny recognition to developing unions [0:55]. They flexed political and economic power to shut down organization attempts [1:36]. The Alliance got courts to rule against picketing outside of the buildings [3:05].
- Workers wanted protections. They were frustrated by long hours and low pay, but were also afraid that if they protested they would be arrested [up to 3:25].
- The Alliance is successful in Minneapolis right away, but takes until the 1910s to become effective in St. Paul [1:47]. Together, the cities were able to utilize cheap labor in public transit [2:09]. Minneapolis had a “Home Guard,” which was formed as a volunteer policing force against union activity [3:45]. St. Paul was more open to negotiations with unions, but the streets were filled with marchers [4:12]. The government intervened in St. Paul, but less happened in Minneapolis because the Alliance has control of public spaces [4:50]. Large rallies were held in St. Paul, but the National Guard shut them down, and civil liberties were trampled on [5:05].