Compensation (human resources management)

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History of Labor and Work in the U.S. Before the End of Reconstruction (96)

Final Examination Fall 2023

This examination is to be completed outside of class. Students are welcome to refer to as many sources as desired in answering these exam questions. There is no time limit or surveillance for this examination. The due date for returning the answers is December 20, 2023. You will post your responses on our Canvas site.

In this exam, you will write three (3) short essays, one from each color-coded section: Green Section, Blue Section, and Red Section. You may select only one question from each section.

The answer to each question should be approximately 250 words in length (about a single page, double-spaced). Students should ascribe to the rubric for the exam in completing each of the responses.

Our questions are based upon questions that you developed in our course discussions and weekly question posts. So, each page focuses historical issues with which you should be familiar.

Your short essay will express your opinion on the question that you have selected and provide supporting evidence for that opinion.

We have posted information on these historical issues in the Modules section of our Canvas site; however, you are always welcome to bring additional, relevant information from other sources that you feel are pertinent to your short essay. You are not required to use sources outside our Canvas site. You will cite all sources upon which you rely for support. You should use the APA or MLA format for in-text citations within your essays. You will also provide a Works Cited page at the end of the exam (after the three essays) listing all the web sites, articles, books, and other sources that you have quoted.

Be sure to review the rubric that I have included here and in our syllabus on Final Exam Essay Responses. The rubric emphasizes that: 1. You are expressing an opinion on the question raised by the exam; 2. You are providing support (evidence) and reasoning to justify your opinion; 3. You are choosing your words thoughtfully; and 4. You are explaining why the historical question that you have selected is relevant in 2023. The purpose of this exam is for you to learn how to express a cogent opinion on an historical problem that is relevant today.

Please contact me if you have any questions about the Exam. Thanks for your attention and for your diligent work!

Dr. Lavin 610-724-1404 (Text or talk)

Labor Biography: How Workers’ Stories Shape History

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1. How do personal life stories help us better understand the history of labor? Discuss how individual experiences within the workforce contribute to our understanding of labor movements, their challenges, and their influence on society. Explain the importance of these personal narratives in shaping the collective identity and driving change within labor movements.

2. How have individual life stories shaped the course of labor history, influencing the progress and challenges faced by workers and their movements? Could you provide examples of individuals that have made great impacts on labor history?

3. How do autobiographical writings and biographies contribute to a deeper understanding of individuals' lives, and what key elements are crucial in effectively conveying the struggles and historical environment these individuals went through? 

4. In 'The Dance and the Railroad,' playwright David Henry Hwang explores the experiences of Chinese railroad workers in the 19th century. This play, coupled with Hwang's insights in his YouTube interview, serves as a unique biographical narrative that sheds light on a specific aspect of labor history. How does biographical writing, like that represented in Hwang's work, contribute to our understanding of labor history? Discuss the importance of individual stories in illuminating broader historical trends, using 'The Dance and the Railroad' as a primary example.

5. Discuss how the historical experiences of Chinese American railway workers have impacted the development of the American railway system and broader social history. Explore how their personal stories reflect the issues of labor rights, racial relations, and immigration policies of the time, and how these narratives help us gain a more comprehensive understanding of America's history and cultural diversity.

6. Explore how the life stories of individual workers, told through biographical writing, deepen our understanding of labor history and its influence on our comprehension of societal and economic development. To what extent does such biography reveal the historical and cultural value of the workforce?

7. How could reflecting on personal experiences and narratives inspire others to think critically and develop a more profound appreciation for the history of work?

Labor Conflicts, Strikes and Negotiating for Peace & Justice

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1. How might the Rutgers strike this spring impact our understanding of historical labor struggles, and what lessons could students of Labor History learn from analyzing the implications of such contemporary events? You may wish to consider how events have affected people whom we know. Consider how the Labor Movement affected people in the past and present. What did we learn about the process of negotiation?

2. How have labor disputes evolved over time in terms of their underlying causes, methods of resolution, and the role of technology in communication and organization, and what lessons can be learned from the historical progression of labor conflicts compared to contemporary ones?

3. How has the role of social media influenced the organization and public perception of labor strikes in the present day compared to the 19th century when such technology didn't exist?

4. Nowadays, worker unions have a great influence on modern labor disputes. In the context of the 1835 Paterson strike, how could a union’s involvement aided in advocating for workers' rights during this time. What were the issues and how did the workers advocate for themselves? How did management respond? What can we learn in 2023 from people who struggled with the conflict in 1835?

5. What are the different ways that governments have responded to labor conflicts in the past and present?

6. To what extent do the hardships faced by Chinese railroad workers in the past draw parallels with the struggles of today's labor force? Are there persistent challenges in achieving fair labor practices and worker rights and how could they be addressed?

7. In what ways do the strategies, participant demographics, societal impacts, and technological influences of 19th century labor strikes contrast with those in 2023, amidst evolving labor laws, globalization, and digital communication?

Human Rights, Civil Rights, and Labor Rights

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1. How does Isabel Wilkerson's film 'An Outrage' and the events of the 1968 Sanitation Workers' Strike together illustrate the interconnectedness of civil rights and labor movements in the United States? Additionally, in what ways do these historical events pose unique challenges and perspectives in the field of biographical and historical writing?

2. To what extent did the legal proceedings of John Brown's trial reflect the broader societal attitudes towards his actions and the issue of slavery during that period, and how did this impact the perception of justice in the context of the time?

3. What were the prime motivations and methods of activism of Ida B. Wells? Consequently, what were some obstacles which she had faced throughout her activism and how was she able to circumvent those barriers? 

4. What were the key factors that contributed to the significance and impact of the 1968 Sanitation Workers' Strike in civil rights and labor movements?

5. How does varying media coverage of events such as the Sanitation Workers' Strike of 1968 impact the public's attitude towards labor movements and civil rights issues?

6. How does the biography of Martin Luther King Jr. and key figures in the 1968 Sanitation Workers' Strike enhance our understanding of civil rights, labor rights, and their relevance today?

7. In the film An Outrage, it is mentioned multiple times that people do not like to talk about the lynchings of the past. Do you think that it is best to revisit this topic in modern conversation or do you think it is best to leave it alone? Why?

8. How did the Dr. Martin Luther King speech affect labor market in 20th century, and what is his assessment of labor history in the speech?

9. How do the documentary 'An Outrage' by Isabel Wilkerson, the historical context of lynching, the significance of the Sanitation Workers' Strike of 1968, and the art of writing biography intersect to illuminate the African American experience and its impact on American society?


Final Exam: Short Essays




Supporting Evidence/Proof

Student must provide historical evidence supporting the opinion stated in the essay. Evidence needs to align with or prove the opinion in a manner that reflects an understanding of the workers.

5.0 pts

Full Marks

0.0 pts

No Marks

5.0 pts

Statement of Opinion

Student must express an opinion regarding the essay question. This opinion should be contained in a carefully worded sentence (or possibly two sentences).

5.0 pts

Full Marks

0.0 pts

No Marks

5.0 pts


Writing on the short-essay exam answers should reflect careful reasoning. Good word choices demonstrate good thoughts.

5.0 pts

Full Marks

0.0 pts

No Marks

5.0 pts


Short essay also must explain how problems of workers of the past are relevant to the struggles of workers in the present.

5.0 pts

Full Marks

0.0 pts

No Marks

5.0 pts

Total Points: 20.0