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  • Uploaded on The Rise of Labor Unions. What was wrong with labor?. Harsh working conditions Long hours: 10-14 hour days (little or no breaks) Seven day work week

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The Rise of Labor Unions

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what was wrong with labor
What was wrong with labor?
  • Harsh working conditions
    • Long hours: 10-14 hour days (little or no breaks)
    • Seven day work week
    • Super LOW wages (all family members needed to work to survive)
    • Extreme heat
    • NO Benefits
    • Repetitive-Mind dulling tasks
    • Low ventilation and polluted air - illness
    • Exposed machinery
      • Caused lots of injuries/deaths.
      • 1882 – 675 work related deaths each week

What could the workers do?

workers unite
Workers Unite!

Workers of all skills, races and gender began forming Labor Unions to attempt to improve their working conditions.

  • Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA): negotiations between employers and the representatives of employees aimed at reaching agreements which regulate working conditions.
        • Wages, hours, training, health and safety

Strikes: work stoppage caused by the refusal of employees to work.

the unions
The Unions
  • Nation Labor Union (NLU) –
  • 1866 by ironworker William H. Sylvis
        • 640,000 members
        • Helped legalize 8 hour work day for government workers
the unions1
The Unions
  • Knights of Labor – 1869 – Terence Powderly – focus on individual
        • “An injury to one is a concern of all.”
        • 700,000 members
        • Welcomed skilled & unskilled workers as well as women and African Americans
        • Wanted equal pay for men and women
the unions2
The Unions
  • American Federation of Labor (AFL) – 1886 – Samuel Gompers
        • Focused on collective bargaining
        • Major tactic was use of strikes
        • Helped raise wages from 17$ to 24$ and hours per week
        • from 54.5 to 49
the unions3
The Unions
  • American Railway Union (ARU) – Eugene V. Debs
      • Skilled and unskilled workers in a specific industry
      • 150,000 members
      • Died off after a failed major strike
  • Debs and others eventually turned to socialism – a political system based on government control of business and property
the unions4
The Unions
  • Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) (Wobblies) –
  • 1905 – William “Big Bill” Haywood
      • Radical unionists and socialists
      • Welcomed African Americans
      • Never topped 100,000 members

*Although many labor unions died off or never recovered from a major strike failure, they all added to the momentum of the Labor movement.

women organize
Women Organize

Barred from many unions, women still united under powerful leaders.

Mary Harris Jones - Mother Jones

  • Supported the Great Strike of 1877
  • Organized for the United Mine Workers of America (UMW)
  • Endured death threats & jail with coal miners
  • Led 80 mill children (many with injuries) on a march to President Theodore Roosevelt’s home
  • Pauline Newman – organizer of International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union
    • Supported the “Uprising of the 20,000” - 1909 seamstresses’ strike
triangle shirtwaist factory fire
Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire
  • March 25th 1911
  • Fires broke out on 8th, 9th, 10th floors
  • Company locked all exits except 1, which was blocked by fire
  • No sprinkler systems
  • 146 women died, employers were acquitted of manslaughter


  • Management and Government Pressure Unions
    • “Yellow-Dog Contracts”
    • – workers swore they would not join a union
    • Turned the Sherman Anti-Trust Act against labor
    • Although legal limitations made it harder for unions to be effective, unions were still a powerful tool. The AFL had over 2million members by WWI