Labor Unions in the United States

By: Casey Urbanek

Conditions Before the Formation of Labor Unions

Before labor unions were formed, the conditions of factories were undesirable. Employees had to work long days for small, unfair wages. Children were allowed to work in factories operating dangerous machinery, often resulting in injures. Factories were crowded and workers operated dangerous machines. Many companies set up company towns where all the employees had to live and shop, and they were paid in "money" that could only be used in that company's town. Employees were easily replaced due to the amount of immigration at this time.

The Formation of Labor Unions

When labor unions formed, they had many goals. They wanted to increase wages of workers, shorten the work day, form safer working conditions, and eliminate child labor. These unions worked to make conditions better for their workers, and were involved in some violent strikes during the 1880s.

Conditions After Labor Unions

At first, labor unions were not always successful in riots, but they eventually caused change for employees. When labor unions first formed, some union workers were replaced with non-union workers since their was a high supply of laborers at the time. Labor Unions eventually shortened the work day, ended dangerous conditions, raised wages, and removed children from dangerous jobs.

History of Labor Unions in Wisconsin

Unions began to form early in Wisconsin. In 1865, citizens of Milwaukee formed a union called the Molder's Union. In 1867, shoemakers in Wisconsin formed a 50,000 member union know as the Knights of St. Crispin which suffered membership in 1873. During the strike for an 8-hour workday, Wisconsin union members led a large force in this nation-wide strike. Throughout these years, Wisconsin unions have become strong and brought influential changes to the workforce.

Current State of Unions in Wisconsin

Currently in Wisconsin, there are 49 state labor unions. There are currently state unions for many jobs including, but not limited to, teachers, musicians, government employees, carpenters, and postal workers. In 2011, 339,000 workers belonged to workers.

Current State of Unions in the United States of America

Unions continue to play an important role in the United States of America. Nationally in 2011, 7.6 million workers in the public sector belonged to unions. In the private sector, 7.2 million workers belonged to a union.

Works Cited

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"Knights of Labor." A&E Television Networks, 1991. Web. 21 Dec. 2012.

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"United States History - The Struggles of Labor." United States History - The Struggles of Labor. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Dec. 2012