History of Labor

Janessa Kuderer

Conditions before the creation of unions

Men, Women, and children worked 6 or 7 days a week, working about 75 hours a week. The work shifts were 10 to 12 hours. Most children worked for $1 a week, while men and women worked for $2 or $3 a week. They worked in the extreme hot during summer and the freezing cold during winter. The working conditions were unsafe so many were hurt on the job or would become sick from the cold conditions in the factories. If they became to sick or injured to work they were fired with out any compensation. Many factories were also infested with rats, lice, and roaches. Children worked as young as 6 years of age.

Why labor unions were formed

Labor unions were formed to try to establish 8 hour workdays, and higher wages for workers. They also worked to end child labor. Labor unions helped to organize the workers to bargain for better working conditions. With a large group of workers, it forced the employer to hear their concerns.


Examples of unions

One union formed during this time was the Knights of Labor. Another was the American Federation of Labor or the AFL. The ARU or the American Railroad Union was also formed along with the National Labor Union. Theses unions worked to establish better working conditions.

Conditions post formation of unions

After the creation of unions the working conditions became more safe. The workers wages were increased. Unions establish a 8 hour workday rather then 10 to 12 hours of work a day. They also ended child labor.

History of unions in wi

Wisconsin's first union was formed in 1847 by bricklayers and in 1848 by carpenters. the Knights of St. Crispin was formed in 1867 by shoemakers. This became Wisconsin's first national trade union which became the largest union in the nation. The first successful strike was in 1848 by the ship Carpenters and Caulkers Association, though it was small in size. When talk of 8 hour workdays spread across the nation the Milwaukee Labor Reform Associations which was later called the Eight-Hour League, to fight for 8 hour workdays. In May of 1886 factories were shut down for 5 days when workers went on strike for the 8 hour workday. On the fifth day of the strike they were attacked by troops. 5 were killed and 4 were wounded. In 1911 Wisconsin passed its first Workmen's Compensation law, so employers had to give money to those who were hurt on the job or lost there lives. Labor unions began fighting for unemployment compensation after World War I until a law passed in 1932. State support was added to worker's rights in 1937 due to the Wisconsin Employment Relations Act.

Current state of unions in wi and us

In Wisconsin, most collective bargaining rights have been striped from public unions under a bill passed into law by Governor Scott Walker. Unions still exists today and deal will with many of the same problems. The current state of unions in the U.S is at a decreasing rate. Members of unions are generally paid 10-30% more then non-union members.

Work Cited

  1. "A History of Labor Unions from Colonial Times to 2009." A History of Labor Unions from Colonial Times to 2009. 21 Dec. 2012 <http://mises.org/daily/3553>.
  2. "American Labor Movement: Development of Unions." 123HelpMe.com. 21 Dec 2012 <http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=22934>.
  3. "The Birth of the Labor Movement." The Birth of the Labor Movement. 1996. Wisconsin Historical Society. 21 Dec. 2012 <http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/tp-030/?action=more_essay>.
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  5. Lamb, Annette, and Larry Johnson,. "Labor Movement." Labor Movement. June 2002. 21 Dec. 2012 <http://www.42explore2.com/labor.htm>.
  6. Lyn, V. "And Then There Were None: America Without Unions." And Then There Were None: America Without Unions. Drayton's Gazette. 21 Dec. 2012 <http://tcmag.wordpress.com/2011/02/25/featured-article-7/>.