History & Current State of Unions in Wisconsin & the U.S.
- In factories, employees worked long hours and all week.
- Speed of work was set by how fast the machines went.
- Women, children and immigrants received lower wages than white men.
- Injuries were common in factories, and many people kept working. Worker compensation was not common at the time.
- Workplace was an "impersonal environment",because workers rarely saw who they were working for.
Why Did Unions Form?
- Workers didn't like workplace conditions, so they began to form unions. Many unions worked to achieve a eight-hour work day.
- Industrialized America didn't feel the need to help the common needs of workers.
- Workers needed support to fight against long hours, little pay, unclean working environments and, sometimes, child labor.
Post Union Formation Conditions
- Eventually, an eight-hour work day was established.
- Bosses didn't like their workers being members of Unions. Workers had trouble with their bosses.
- Strikes became common in the workplace. Early strikes were almost never successful.
- Workplace conditions began to slowly improve.
- Women, for the most part, still received less pay than white men.
Wisconsin Union History
- Agriculture, mining, and lumber industries were the main industries that started to change working conditions.
- Unlike the rest of the country, Wisconsin workers didn't partake in many boycotts or strikes.
- Grouped workers by industry instead of skill unlike many parts of the country.
- First unions in Wisconsin were formed in Milwaukee (first, bricklayers, then carpenters).
- The first national trade union organization, The Knights of St. Crispin, grew to be one of the largest in the nation.
- When white men did go on strike, employers hired women, African Americans, and immigrants to take their place. After the strike, these "minorities" got to keep their jobs-but still received less pay than men.
- To help reach the goal of an eight-hour work day, the Milwaukee Labor Reform Association was created.
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