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The History Of Organized Labor. Essay

1026 words - 4 pages

America, still in its infancy in the late 18th century began to grow as a nation. The industrial revolution was dawning in the United States. American labor now faced a long, uphill battle to get fair treatment in the workplace. During that battle more and more American workers would turn to organized labor unions to help their cause. The labor unions and there members faced violence, cruelty and many bitter defeats, but they would eventually win the fight and achieve a standard of living unknown to American workers at any other time in history. As the industrial revolution forged ahead the factory system grew many American workers began to form organized labor unions to protect their interests. In 1792 the shoemakers union was the first union to collect dues and hold regular meeting. Shortly after the shoemakers, carpenters and leather workers in Boston and printers in New York organized labor unions. The tactics of the labor union during this time were simple. The union members would agree on a wage they thought was fair. If the employer failed to meet their demands they pledged to stop working for them. The early days of the union met some resistance from the court system. Employers used the courts as an effective weapon in the fight against the unions. In 1806, eight shoemakers from Philadelphia were brought to trial after an unsuccessful strike. The court ruled in favor of the employer saying that any organizing of workers to raise wages was illegal and that unions were conspiracies against employers and the community.Later cases heard by the courts proved fatal to the union as they ruled that any action taken by a union to raise wages might be criminal. The effectiveness of the early-organized labor movement had been destroyed. The door had opened again for workers who were looking to organize when in 1842 several shoemakers in Boston were brought to trial for refusing to work with non-union shoemakers. A municipal court found them guilty of conspiracy. An appeal to a higher court resulted would end in victory for the union members. Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw ruled that it was not illegal for workers to engage in peaceful union activities. Justice Shaw said they had the right to organize. The organized labor movement no longer had to fear charges of conspiracy. Unions now began campaigning for a 10-hour workday and against child labor. The unions received a favorable response by many state legislatures. Following these small victories a number of skilled trades began organizing national unions in an effort to improve their wages and working conditions. During the 1850's hundreds of strikes were waged against employers to increase wages, however none of them were as extensive as the strike in 1860, which was organized in Lynn, Massachusetts by shoemakers. Factory workers were refused a three-dollar increase to their weekly pay. The strike quickly spread to Maine and New Hampshire. The strike was the largest yet, which encompassed about 20,000...

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