History of Labor

Conditions Before Unions

The working conditions for many employees in the industrial factory age was terrible. On average worked ten hours a day, six days a week with an hourly pay of 15 cents, or $1.50 a day. Factories did not change any work hours or any aspect of work for women and children, and regardless of age, sex and race. In addition, minorities such as African Americans, Asian Americans, women, child, and Mexican Americans worked the same hours, but with less pay. The pay was 20-40 percents below what is required for money to live in these time period ("The Struggles of Labor). The factories have unsafe work conditions, with 30,000 killed or injured in 1881 (Boyer). The competition for jobs affected the pay because more then 18 million immigrants entered the workforce, and worked for lower wages ("The Struggles of Labor").

Why Unions Formed?

The unions were formed when employee's were sick of the treatment the management gave them. Employee's joined together to form unions to better their work conditions, wages and hours. Most unions in the early 1800's were not successful, but eventually many workers stood together. Certain acts such as the 8 hour work-day, or the Family Leave Act were instated because of unions fighting.

Examples of Unions

Conditions After Unions

After the first couple of unions in the late 1800's there was not much change of conditions with the employers fighting back. Conditions changed after many controversial strikes and tragedies. One strike involved miners who did not mine for an entire summer which made President Theodore Roosevelt intervene and make the owners increase the wages. A tragedy that happened in New York City, happened when a fire started and killed multiple different women because the safety doors were closed. After women and children were attacked by police men because they were strikers posed the AFL to urge the government to create the U.S. Department of Labor. Eventually a Children's Bureau was created to protect victims of job exploitation. Next, the LaFollette Seaman's Act was passed to improve the condition on ships of navy ships. "The labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce" was written in the Clayton Act of 1914. Over the years the unions have given middle class workers a legal right to protest for better working conditions ("History of Labor Unions").

History of Wisconsin Unions

  • 1848: Ships Carpenter, first successful strike in Milwaukee
  • 1867: Union of shoemakers became the largest union in the nation, now no longer in existence
  • 1886: 7 workers killed, worst labor violence
  • 1932: First Workers Compensation Law in U.S. established in Wisconsin
  • 1936-1939: Most heavily unionized state, after the passing of Wagner Act
  • 1959: Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act passed, first of any state in the nation
  • 2011: End of Collective Bargaining Rights (Germanson)

Current State of Unions in Wisconsin and United States of America

  • 11.8 percent of union membership in the US
  • About 14.8 million members all around the US
  • 37 percent for unions of public-workers sections
  • 36.8 percent for workers in education, and training
  • New York with the highest union membership at 24.1 ("Union Members Summary)
  • Wisconsin has 339,000 union members
  • 13.3 percent are union workers of salary and wage earners
  • Wisconsin has above average union membership in the US ("Union Membership in Wisconsin- 2011)
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Works Cited

  1. Boyer, Paul S. "Labor Strives to Organize." Holt American Nation. Austin: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 2005. 481-87. Print.
  2. CliffsNotes.com. The Rise of Organized Labor. 19 Dec 2012
  3. Germanson, Ken. "Milestones." Wisconsin Labor History Society RSS. Wisconsin Labor History Society, 2012. Web. 19 Dec. 2012.
  4. Google Images
  5. "History of Labor Unions." The Social Studies Help Center. N.p., 2001-2012. Web. 19 Dec. 2012.
  6. "The Struggles of Labor." United States History - The Struggles of Labor. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2012.
  7. "Union Membership in Wisconsin- 2011." Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011): 1-5. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Web. 20 Dec. 2012. <http://www.bls.gov/ro5/unionwi.pdf>.
  8. "Union Members Summary." U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 27 Jan. 2012. Web. 20 Dec. 2012.