Today: American Industry and the Multinationals

Author: Sara Chavarria
Editor: Stephanie Nardei

Time: 2 class periods
Photocopy a 1/4 Class set of Handout1
Photocopy 5-10 reference copies of Handout 2
Prepare Overhead 3
Materials: Handout 1a-d (Multinationals)
Handout 2 (for reference only)
Overhead 1 (Conclusions)


In this apply lesson, students will conduct additional research to address American Industry today. They will investigate how American Industries locate elsewhere and worker conditions.

Purpose -- for students to understand that while reform in the U.S. has taken place and enforces an 8-hour work day, American factories abroad are not held to those same standards. Students learn how that is possible in countries without national wage laws.

Students will be able to:

  • Construct an Actions list and write a Conclusions report addressing labor issues and concerns to be found at factories in China through analysis of a published investigative report of the multinationals sub-contracting policies.
National Council for History in the Schools
Historical Thinking Standards

  • Standard 5E: Formulate a position or course of action on an issue.

United States History Standards

  • Era 10 Standard 1: Recent developments in foreign and domestic policies.

Teacher Background

Resource Websites
Working Conditions in China: http://www.corpwatch.org/print_article.php?&id=3031
Early American Industries Association http://www.eaiainfo.org/
Learning, Diffusion and the Industry Life Cycle http://www.eaiainfo.org/



1. Group students into four and give each group a copy of Handout 1, which is divided into quarters. Each student introduces the study they will read about and gives background information on the research conducted and interviews. Each portion of the handout has information about one of the four factories featured.

2. The student’s task is to read all the information and write a conclusion report on facts that have been reported by the investigative committee.

3. Before the report can be written, students will be responsible for their individual research. There are a total of four factories so each student is looking at a different factory. The student will first list any information about working conditions. Collected data will include:

  • worker profile
  • wage and time issues
  • health and safety Issues
    • chemicals
    • safety equipment
    • ventilation concerns
    • accidents
    • other safety concerns
  • fines and firing reasons
  • child labor presence
  • union and code violations

4. In addition, students must have an understanding of how multinationals sub-contract to meet quotas and any codes or regulations existing in China.

5. When students are done with their individual readings have them discuss and share information with their group.

6. As a group they will compile a list of “Actions to Be Taken” that will go into their conclusions in which they will clearly state needed changes in order to insure worker’s rights. As part of their Actions List they must decide how long the company has to comply with the requests.

7. In their Conclusions Report they must introduce the problem, how it manifests itself (quotas), and then list the actions to be taken.

8. When done, show Overhead 1 of the real Actions List in the report. Discuss if any of theirs were different or if they didn’t have any that the report had.

9. End the lesson by having students write an individual essay addressing the following statement and question:

  • Factories in China are only one example of working conditions of a country that produces merchandise for America and wealthier nations.
    • Why are multinationals (many of them American owned) going to other nations for labor and production?
    • Should they be held responsible for the welfare of their workers? Explain.

10. End the lesson by posing the following question:

  • If workers’ health are being compromised by industry, how about the communities where the factories are located?

Final essay.

Embedded Assessment
Conclusions report. Final essay.

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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