Urban Industrial America Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 15:26:25
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Labor union is a union formed when individuals related through employment organize themselves together to form a group that will safeguard their interests as workers. The individuals may be unskilled workers, skilled, professional or even unemployed. The major purpose of a union is to maintain and or improve the prevailing conditions of employment. The unions are used as a tool by which employees and their companies relate in the working place to create rules and regulations of employment.

Good working relationships are required from both parties to maintain high production in the working place. The main objectives of trade unions were mainly, providing benefits to its members such as insuring the workers against unemployment, bad health and old age (Divine 2006). Provide collective bargaining for employees in terms of better wages and improved working conditions. Take industrial actions by organizing strikes and lockouts to further their objectives. Unions also got involved in political activities that may promote legislation of laws that favor workers

History Of Trade Unions In America The evolution of trade unions is based on the objectives and interests of communal groups as a result of modern industrialization. These interests are context dependent. It is had to have regulations to ensure that this trade unions and collective bargaining institutions remain focused to their roles. For the last two hundred years, labor union in America has undergone different forms and changes that are normally influenced by differing political and also economic regimes.

The immediate goals and activities and objectives of trade unions may vary, however, they are geared towards improving the general working conditions of a worker. So where do America trade history begin? Order of the Knights of St Crispin Among the early union formed in America was the Order of the Knights of St Crispin which was established in 1867 and had 50,000 members after three years that is in 1870 (Divine 2006). However, the union was badly organized and it started declining after being formed.

The union fought for infringement of machinery and also unskilled labor in the shoe industry, it also wanted the shoe workers to have their own autonomy. For example, a provision in their constitution clearly wanted to limit the use of machines in the industry, but, this failed since the new machines that were being implemented could be run by semi- skilled employees and was producing more shoes compared to hand sewing. The very first local union movements were founded after the Civil War, at that time the National Labor Union (NLU) was the first federation of labor unions in America; however, it was short lived.

(Divine, 2006) The Knights of labor and American Federation of Labor (AFL) Labor union in America underwent a major historical development in 1869 when the Knights of labor was founded; this was the very first national labor union that had a membership in many regions and had over 700,000 workers who joined the union. Another developed occurred when the American Federation of Labor (AFL) was formed in 1904 by Samuel Gompers. The AFL affiliated labor unions had over 1. 4 million members.

The leadership of Gompers advocated for pure and simple unionism approach that gave emphasis to collective bargaining in order for the union to attain its goals. The union goal and objectives were mainly centered at improving the working environment of the workers, such as by increasing the wages, reducing working hours and improving the working conditions of the workers. The union believed in united interests for all producing groups and clusters and wanted to sign up all the workers in the production sector and any one else who was a producer.

The fact the union allowed all producers to be enlisted, made the union experience an explosive member growth after the year 1880. When Terence Powderly took the leadership, the union fought for various causes, sometimes the union used political or it used cooperative ventures. Powderly believed in achieving the labor union objectives using politics and also education than using economic coercion. The union organized big strikes which failed and the union collapsed during the 1886 Haymarket Riots, when the union message was confused with that from bomb making radicals.

(Divine, 2006) As mentioned above, in 1886 the AFL was established under Samuel Gompers, the AFL was succeeding the federation of organized trades and labor unions (FOTLU, that was there between 1881-1886). The AFL was a federation of labor unions, which mostly consisted of skilled workers, those who were unskilled, women, together with African American were basically not allowed to enlist in the union. The union campaigned for wage increment and the unionized wages increased from 17 dollars to 23 dollars this was in the year 1890 to 1917.

There was also a reduction of working hours which came down averagely from 54. 4 hours per week to 48. 9 hours per week. However, skilled workers numbered a small fraction of the total workforce thus; the AFL was forced to lessen their enrollment requirement policies to attract more members. The AFL under Samuel Gompers became a national federation for the skilled workers and put in place the labor organization model that is being used up to today. (Divine, 2006) Comparisons

In America the first local labor union were formed in 19th century, however the labor movements gained their own identity after the American civil war, this is the period when the National Labor Union (NLU which was short lived) was the first federation of labor unions in America. This union did not have proper policies and had also poor managed that resulted to its collapse. The Knight of Labor Union was broadly based and its membership was open both to skilled and non skilled, this union championed for the industries not to implement machines use as it lead to workers layoffs.

The workers felt it was good for the but it also collapsed due to lack of proper planning and poor leadership as seen during the Haymarket riots. The American Federation of Labor union (AFL) that was founded in 1886 and led by Samuel Gompers only represented skilled workers as opposed to other earlier labor union which represented both skilled and unskilled workers (Divine 2006). This meant that a lot of workers were excluded from the union thus the felt that the union was not helping them in any way.

Due to pressure, the AFL was forced to allow membership of unskilled workers to be more representative. Conclusion Labor unions are an important aspect in championing for the workers rights and improvement of working conditions of the worker. For the worker to be well represented the unions must have the interest of the workers at heart. The unions also need to be all inclusive in order to have a bigger bargaining power to bargain for the workers.

America labor unions have taken a long period in developing, though, today there are more organized than before, and they have higher bargaining power compared to other labor unions in other countries. This is probably because the unions have developed better structures and policies. Today, the challenges the labor unions have, is how to gain better bargaining power at the same time balance the political powers and influences that the labor unions have.


Divine, A. R (2006): America past and present since 1865, volume II, seventh edition, Longman.

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