Labor Issues

The United States and Wisconsin

Pre-Union Conditions

The working conditions before unions were very unfair. Laborers worked for low wages and sometimes the job was life threatening. Because wages were so low, families often sent their children to work. A work day could be up to sixteen hours and work week was six days. Conditions were very dangerous most of the time.

Why Unions Formed

Unions formed to give workers a voice about unfair wages and conditions. Through unions, workers can communicate to employers about pay and about the workplace. Unions supported laws made that benefited employees.

Examples of Unions

A prime example of a union is one of the earliest ones: The Knights of Labor. This organization was the first to suggest an eight hour work day and is still in existence today. The Knights of Labor helped initiate strikes and boycotts to help workers.

Conditions After Unions

Conditions after the rise of unions improved. Unions worked for fair wages, a safe workplace and equal pay for equal work. They also try to eliminated sexism and racism within the workplace. Unions also invested in workers' pensions which they recieve after retirement.

History of Unions in Wisconsin

1848: A staff a carpentry company displays a successful strike

1867: A union of shoemakers that originated in Milwaukee becomes the largest in the nation

1886: 7 workers are killed by State Militia during a peaceful protest for the eight hour work day

1898: A citywide strike of woodworkers in Oshkosh, charges pressed buy acquitted

1932: First Unemployment Compensation Law in U.S. is passed in Wisconsin

1936-39: Wisconsin becomes one of the more unionized states in the US bringing good wages and benifits to workers across the state

1959: Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act passed in Wisconsin and is one of first in the nation

2011: Scott Walker passes Act 10 and affects collective bargaining with unions and employees to cut deficit.

Current State of Unions in the United States and Wisconsin

In the United States, membership of unions has declined. Despite the drop in membership, unions continue to fight for their members by battling employers over wages, workplace safety, job security, and retirement. In Wisconsin, teacher union membership has dropped because of the Act 10 law and has caused layoffs.