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Lesson Plans

Lesson plan: For Labor Day, explore this labor/management 'negotiation' scenario

September 1, 2022

Full Lesson


Supporters of the California Grape Boycott demonstrate in Toronto, Ontario, December, 1968. Jessica Govea is in the center, front row, wearing poncho. The Delano grape labor strike was organized by the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee and the United Farm Workers against grape growers in California. The strike began on September 8, 1965, and lasted more than five years.Photo of “United Farm Workers Collection, Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University


Social studies, history, economics, government, civics

Estimated Time

Two 45-minute classes or one 90-minute block

  1. You will want to explain the upcoming main activity simulation briefly to your students and pass out the “Applications” sheets to them two days before the simulation takes place. This will allow you and the students time to select what roles they will play in the simulation.
  2. Divide the class into the two teams of Labor and Management and announce who will be playing what role for each team. You can divide students using your Learning Management System for online learning purposes. Pass out, email or upload both sides of the “Demands” sheets to students the night before the simulation. For homework, have them select the 6 most important demands for their team and be ready to share their choice with their group through the LMS, Google doc or email.

Warm up Activity

Background on Unions and Labor Day

  1. Ask students what they know about unions and write their answers on the whiteboards or through the LMS. Many may know nothing about unions, so you may need to prompt them to think of any union-related historical events they may have learned about.
    1. Provide students with this definitionan organized association of workers formed to protect and further their rights and interests; a labor union.
  2. Watch the short video clips that give a brief background on unions and the holiday Labor Day:
    1. A Brief History of Unions”
    2. “History of Labor Day”
  3. Pass out, email or upload the student handout “Unions Play a Surprising Role in Your Everyday Life.” Have students read and watch the video together which provides examples of how the union plays a role in some everyday topics.
  4. Read the interview with Doyle Pryor Assistant General Counsel for the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) from 1992-2012, and learn more about the union’s role in professional sports.

Main activity

“Negotiation”: A Labor/Management Simulation


  • to expose students to the dynamics of a labor/management dispute involving a given set of issues
  • to instill real-world awareness that resolution of conflict often depends on the art of compromise and the acceptance of the need for it
  • to observe the difference between mediation and arbitration
  • to improve skills in the following area:


  • analysis of information
  • creative problem-solving
  • decision-making
  • logical thinking
  • communication skills and public speaking
  • listening skills
  • teamwork and leadership skills

Basic Flow of Simulation

  • “Negotiations” scenario (see materials for scenario and demands) will be given to all students at least two days ahead of the start date as well as applications(see materials for applications) to be a Negotiator or Team Leader.
  • Each class will be divided into two equal-sized “teams,” the labor team and the management team
  •  Each team will have its own Team Leader and several teams of Negotiators.
  • The teacher will serve as Mediator/Arbitrator.
  • Each team will be given a list of 12 “demands” that its side will be trying to achieve and each team will be asked to choose its top 6 priorities and work hard to achieve them in any agreed upon contract. (see materials for scenario and demands)
  • There will be several rounds of negotiations. Between rounds, teams will huddle, revise and prepare for the next round.
  • If needed, there will be a final round of negotiation- with an “all-star” team of negotiators appointed by the team leader w/ advice of his/her team.
  • If both teams agree, any unresolved issues will be resolved by an arbitrator (teacher) who will announce the final decisions on the day of class.
  • The endpoint/goal of “Negotiation” is to achieve a “contract” between labor and management that includes each side’s top priority without each side feeling like it lost. The goal, in short, is a “win-win” finish, not a “win-lose” finish.
  • Following final negotiations, the debriefing process will occur. First, each student will analyze the process in writing; this will be followed by a class discussion in person or using the class’s LMS.

Proposed Time Sequence

Day One:

  • Brief Introductory Remarks (Teacher)
  • 15 minutes: Opening team meetings Goals: Achieve a consensus on 6 priority demands, discuss possible responses to opposition demands, Team Leader- prepare an opening statement, Negotiators- prepare for round one
  • 5 minutes: Both Team leaders make opening presentations (2 minutes each)
  • 10 minutes: Round 1 negotiations, 5 minutes each side to focus on its two highest priorities; Mediator summarizes (Teacher)
  • 10 minutes: Team Meeting to plan for Round 2

Day Two:

  • Brief Introductory Remarks (Teacher)
  • 10 minutes: Round 2- same rules as Round 1; second set of Negotiators; reverse sequence of teams
  • 5 minutes: Team Meeting to plan for Round 3
  • 10 minutes: Round 3- same rules as Round 1 & 2; third set of Negotiators; reverse sequence of teams
  • 5 minutes: Team Meeting to plan Final Round; All-Star Negotiators selected by Team Leaders with the help/advice from teams
  • 10 minutes: Final Round- same rules as rounds 1, 2, 3; All-Star Negotiators; reverse sequence of teams
  • Closure: Offer of arbitration; debrief sheet

Created by Tina Yalen and Michael Magathan. Repurposed by Katie Gould in 2015 and updated in 2020. A special thanks to Doyle Pryor for his contribution to this lesson plan.