MENDOTA - In their studies of labor relations past and present, a group of Mendota High School students recently got the opportunity to hear first-hand about challenges and conditions faced by many people in today’s labor force.
Javier Ramirez, a mediator with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, met with the students during their class sessions on Sept. 16 to share some of his first-hand experiences in labor relations and the meat packing industry. The lesson was an extension of the students’ classroom experiences in U.S. History Accelerated and American Literature III Accelerated classes taught by Jason Artman and Matt Gehm.
The students recently covered the progressive era of U.S. History and read Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle.” They are now reading investigative journalist Erik Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal” and have been asked to critically analyze the parts or features of the two books written about the meat industry nearly 100 years apart. Students had the opportunity to interview Ramirez as a primary source to assist in their creation of a paper that evaluates the novels and the industry.
Before working as a federal mediator, Ramirez worked in Colorado as a union representative in the meat packing industry. His father, Ruben Ramirez, worked as a Chicago union leader in the same industry. Javier Ramirez said his family was “raised” in the back of the yards. He shared with students that his father lost fingers working in the factory, and he could recount the fear of the years when his father would work on the “strike lines.” He gave students a first-hand account of what it meant to be raised in a family that worked in the industry, including that different family members worked certain jobs at different times, some because they wanted to and some because they needed to.
For the complete article see the 09-25-2013 issue.
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