History of Labor

dec 19,2012

conditions of pre-union

Factory work is very different from other types of labor. The introduction of the factory system had a negative effect on living conditions. Factory owners who believed in Social Darwinism and Rugged Individualism did not care much about those who worked in their factories. They believed that if the workers wanted to improve their; lives they had to do it on their own. Also, because no particular strength or skill was required to operate many of the new factory machines the workers were considered unskilled. This meant they were easily replaced.The owners of the early factories often were most interested in hiring a worker cheaply. Thus they employed many women and children. These workers could be hired for lower wages than men. These low-paid employees had to work for as long as 16 hours a day; they were subjected to pressure, and even physical punishment, in an effort to make them speed up production. Since neither the machines nor the methods of work were designed for safety, many fatal and maiming accidents  resulted.http://www.socialstudieshelp.com/USRA__Workers_Lives.htm

why unions formed

Labor unions are legally recognized as representatives of workers in many industries in the United States. Their activity today centers on collective bargaining over wages, benefits, and working conditions for their membership, and on representing their members in disputes with management over violations of contract provisions. Larger unions also typically engage in lobbying activities and electioneering at the state and federal level.Most unions in America are aligned with one of two larger umbrella organizations: the AFL-CIO created in 1955, and the Change to Win Federation which split from the AFL-CIO in 2005. Both advocate policies and legislation on behalf of workers in the United States and Canada, and take an active role in politics. The AFL-CIO is especially concerned with global trade issues.In 2010, the percentage of workers belonging to a union in the United States (or total labor union "density") was 11.4%, compared to 18.6% in Germany, 27.5% in Canada, and 70% in Finland.[1] Union membership in the private sector has fallen under 7%[2] — levels not seen since 1932. Unions allege that employer-incited opposition has contributed to this decline in membership. The most prominent unions are among public sector employees such as teachers and police. Members of unions are disproportionately older, male and residents of the Northeast, the Midwest, and California.[3] Union workers average 10-30% higher pay than non-union in America after controlling for individual, job, and labor market characteristics.[4]Although much smaller compared to their peak membership in the 1950s, American unions remain a prominent political factor, both through mobilization of their own memberships and through coalitions with like-minded activist organizations around issues such as immigrant rights, trade policy, health care, and living wage campaigns. To fight alleged employer anti-union programs, unions are currently advocating new "card check" federal legislation that would require employers to bargain with a union if more than 50% of workers signed forms, or "cards," stating they wish to be represented by that union. The current procedure involves waiting 45 to 90 days for a federally supervised secret-ballot employee referendum on the subject.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_unions_in_the_United_States

example (s) of union (s)

crafed unions business unions

conditions post formations of unions

Workers formed unions to voice their interests against their employers, and also against other workers. Rejecting broad alliances along class lines, alliances uniting workers on the basis of their lack of property and their common relationship with capitalists, craft unions followed a narrow strategy, uniting workers with the same skill against both the capitalists and against workers in different trades. By using their monopoly of knowledge of the work process to restrict access to the trade, craft unions could have a strong bargaining position that was enhanced by alliances with other craftsmen to finance long strikes. A narrow craft strategy was followed by the first successful unions throughout Europe and America, especially in small urban shops using technologies that still depended on traditional specialized skills, including printers, furniture makers, carpenters, gold beaters and jewelry makers, iron molders, engineers, machinists, and plumbers. Craft unions' characteristic action was the small, local strike, the concerted withdrawal of labor by a few workers critical to production. Typically, craft unions would present a set of demands to local employers on a "take-it-or-leave-it" basis; either the employer accepted their demands or fought a contest of strength to determine whether the employers could do without the skilled workers for longer than the workers could manage without their jobs.

The craft strategy offered little to the great masses of workers. Because it depends on restricting access to trades it could not be applied by common laborers, who were untrained, nor by semi-skilled employees in modern mass-production establishments whose employers trained them on-the-job. Shunned by craft unions, most women and African-Americans in the United States were crowded into nonunion occupations. Some sought employment as strikebreakers in occupations otherwise monopolized by craft unions controlled by white, native-born males (Washington, 1913; Whatley, 1993).

history of unions in WI

Wisconsin is first labor unions were formed in Milwaukee, the bricklayers in 1847.The carpenters in 1848. Other early unions developed in trades connected to transportation, clothing, and printing. Shoemakers founded the Knights of St. Crispin in 1867, Wisconsin is first national trade union organization, which quickly grew to be the largest union in the nation. The Ship Carpenters and Caulkers Association called the first successful strike in 1848, though strikes remained fairly infrequent and small-scale until the later part of the 19th century.


conrrent state of unions (WI &US)

members of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1967

(Destler and Balint 1999: 15). In the first decades after World War

II, U.S. organized labor was, in the words of trade historian I. M.

Destler (1998: 389), “a consistent and reliable member of the freetrade coalition that found a comfortable home in the Democratic


Labor leaders began to express disenchantment with trade in the

early 1970s as U.S. industry faced increased competition from a resurgent Western Europe and Japan. Machine tools, automobiles, and

consumer electronics such as radios and TVs were industries where

U.S. producers had dominated after World War II but where import

penetration grew. In the face of competition, a growing number of

industries and their unions began to seek import relief by the 1970s