History of Labor

Jacky Dickman

Conditions Pre-Union

The conditions before the Union were extremely harsh. The government did little to regulate business regulations, and the workers suffered. The workers often suffered twelve hour shifts, sometimes at night, only to make pennies. They worked long hours for low wages, with fatigue as a factor in their safety. Along with all of this, the owners controlled the workers with company towns, where they could not leave or spend out side of. This helped the owners make money off of their products, and make all of the money from wages back. The workers also did not recieve benefits, and the owners did not feel liable for injuries. When a worker was injured, they were forced to keep working. The condiditons were extremely unsafe and full of diseases. Lastly, many children worked to support their families, lieing about their age.

Why Unions Were Formed

Unions were formed in the 1800s due to the terrible conditions that had occured for so long. The workers came togeher under the union in an effort to improve working conditions. They had been treated so bad for so long, and wanted to stand up against those who were causing thier trouble. Due to the low wages, unsafe working conditions, and risk of injury, they were forced to come together and that happened to be in a union.

Examples of Unions

National Labor Union

  • Formed in 1866
  • Persuaded Congress to pass an 8-hour day for Federal workers
  • Never grew very strong
  • Organization of Unions
  • Died during the economic depression of 1873

Knights of Labor

  • Formed in 1869
  • Tried to establish 8 hour wok days, equal pay, and end to child labor
  • Formed by Uriah Stephens
  • Women and African Americans could join (1883)
  • Allowed skilled and unskilled workers to join
  • Led by Terence Powderly
  • Mary Jones helped lead strikes, and was sentenced to 20 years in jail

Conditions Post Formation of Unions

After the formations of Unions such as the Knights of Labor, conditions changed extremely. Violence rose tremendously due to all of the strikes that occured. In many situations, working conditions grew worse due to strike and unions. Many lock outs took place in punishment of the way the wokers were acting, and some workers were replaced because there was a bountiful supply of ready-workers.

History of Unions in Wisconsin

The Union workers in Wisconsin were some of the most organized, yet the employers still faught against them. Here is a list of somenimportant events in Wisconson Union history:

  • 1867 - The union of the shoemakers, Knights of St. Crispin, became the nations largest union
  • 1886 - 7 workers were killed while participating in the later known "Bay View Tragedy." The workers were were on a peaceful march agains the 8 hour work day
  • 1893 - The State Federation of Labor was founded
  • 1897 - The Socailist Party in Milwaukee was formed. It was the start of progressive actin in Wisconsin
  • 1898 - In Oshkosh, a city-wide strike occured, and later, the were not charged with conspiracy charges after an excessive trial
  • 1900 - 1905 - Several strikes occured for Saturday nights off
  • 1911 - The first Workers Compensation Law was made
  • 1935 - The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union was founded. This union is one of the largest unions in the nation present day
  • 1958 - Through merger of State Federation of Labor and Wisconsin CIO, the state AFL-CIO was created
  • 1959 - As one of the first in the whole nation, the Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act was passed

Current State of Unions

  • Numbers for workers in unions are decreasing
  • Limited Collective Bargaining
  • Many major state employee unions do not have a status in Wisconsin
  • Unions without status may exist buy the government does not have to recognize them
  • Unions must receftify each year

United States:

  • Most Unions in the US are under AFL-CIO or the Change to Win Federation
  • Percent of union membership is dropping, from 11.4% in 2010 to less than 7% currently
  • The public scector employess hold the most prominent unions
  • Union workers on average recieve 10-30% more pay than those who are not in a union

Works Cited