History Of Labor
By: Bethany Tuma
Conditions of pre- unions
Workers formed unions to voice their interests against their employers, and also against other workers. Rejecting broad alliances along class lines, alliances uniting workers on the basis of their lack of property and their common relationship with capitalists, craft unions followed a narrow strategy, uniting workers with the same skill against both the capitalists and against workers in different trades. By using their monopoly of knowledge of the work process to restrict access to the trade, craft unions could have a strong bargaining position that was enhanced by alliances with other craftsmen to finance long strikes. A narrow craft strategy was followed by the first successful unions throughout Europe and America, especially in small urban shops using technologies that still depended on traditional specialized skills, including printers, furniture makers, carpenters, gold beaters and jewelry makers, iron molders, engineers, machinists, and plumbers. Craft unions' characteristic action was the small, local strike, the concerted withdrawal of labor by a few workers critical to production. Typically, craft unions would present a set of demands to local employers on a "take-it-or-leave-it" basis; either the employer accepted their demands or fought a contest of strength to determine whether the employers could do without the skilled workers for longer than the workers could manage without their jobs.
The craft strategy offered little to the great masses of workers. Because it depends on restricting access to trades it could not be applied by common laborers, who were untrained, nor by semi-skilled employees in modern mass-production establishments whose employers trained them on-the-job. Shunned by craft unions, most women and African-Americans in the United States were crowded into nonunion occupations. Some sought employment as strikebreakers in occupations otherwise monopolized by craft unions controlled by white, native-born males (Washington, 1913; Whatley, 1993).
Why unions were formed
Labor unions were created in order to help the workers with work-related difficulties
such as low pay, unsafe or unsanitary working conditions, long hours, and other
situations. Workers often had problems with their bosses as a result of membership in the
unions. Sometimes the unions organized strikes in order to try to change the conditions
of the workers. Early strikes were rarely successful.
Example(s) of Union(s)
The economy is the sphere in which we produce and buy things.
The state is the sphere in which we govern our collective affairs.
Civil society is the sphere is which we get together voluntarily in organizations to
pursue common purposes.
Conditions post formations of unions
History of unions (WI)
Current state of unions (WI, US)
members of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1967
(Destler and Balint 1999: 15). In the first decades after World War
II, U.S. organized labor was, in the words of trade historian I. M.
Destler (1998: 389), “a consistent and reliable member of the freetrade coalition that found a comfortable home in the Democratic
Labor leaders began to express disenchantment with trade in the
early 1970s as U.S. industry faced increased competition from a resurgent Western Europe and Japan. Machine tools, automobiles, and
consumer electronics such as radios and TVs were industries where
U.S. producers had dominated after World War II but where import
penetration grew. In the face of competition, a growing number of
industries and their unions began to seek import relief by the 1970s