The History of the Labor Movement
Since the beginnings of industrialization in the United States, a struggle between the rights of individuals working in industry and manufacturing and the desire of the ownership of these endeavors to maximize profits has raged. As various eras in history passed, labor movements in the United States met with varying degrees of success. The fortunes of labor movements in the United States has ebbed and flowed along with other key factors in American society. In times when human rights and the rights of the individual were national priorities, the labor movement prospered, in times where businesses and profitability were the priority, the labor movement faltered.
In the post-civil war era, 1865-1876, the U.S. was just getting used to dealing with large numbers of unskilled manufacturing labor, which was derived from European Immigrants, and southern Blacks seeking a better life. (Lane, 1987) The bargaining position of such laborers was weak, since no legislation existed at the time to protect their rights, and any protests made about working conditions or other issues were met with termination and replacement, owing to the large pool of unskilled labor. (Lane, 1987) The time period also met with the rise of the "captains of industry", many of whom were instrumental in the success of the North during the Civil War. The government was friendlier to these big businesses and very unfriendly to individ(Lane, 1987) uals and organizations who sought to look into their activities and practices. Additionally, the War brought major incentive to businesses to develop time-saving mass-production technology. (Lane, 1987)
The era between 1877-1920 saw the most dynamic ebb and flow of labor movements in the history of the United States. (Laslett, 1970) Between the creation of the interconnected system of transportation and communication, and the use electricity, manufacturing began to become the basis of the American economy. (Laslett, 1970) Coupled with these innovations was the new concept of applying scientific methodology to industrial processes. (Laslett, 1970) All of these changes, while beneficial to businesses, did little to improve the lot of the industrial laborer. (Laslett, 1970) One of the key complaints of an entirely unregulated labor force in the late 1800s was the extensive use and abuse of child labor. In 1870, nearly three quarters of a million children between the ages of ten and fifteen worked in hazardous aspects of manufacturing, agriculture and street trade. (Laslett, 1970) By 1880, that number was over one point one million, or one in every six children in that age group. (Laslett, 1970) By 1900, that number doubled. The conditions under which children worked were very dangerous. They worked the same shifts as adults (about 12 hours a day, six days a week), denying them the opportunity for school and play. (Laslett, 1970) The factories, mills, mines and other work venues in which they labored were...