Colonial America labour was scarce, raising wages. Nobody wanted to work for someone else. No firm class lines. Individualism reigned. Craftsmen, not labourers. No need for unions.
Beginning 1800's wholesale trade appeared. Transportation advances, competition from buyers to craftsmen. Labour is easier to control, so cheap labour, sweat shops began being used. No labour laws. First union was shoemakers, tailors and printers; craft organisations for skilled workers only, and closed shop, too.
Secretly met to agree on wages and solidarity ruled. Employers feeling threatened turned to the courts. Claimed that unions were illegal combinations of restraint of trade; the conspiracy doctrine. Homeboy judges agreed. 1806 Philadelphia Cordwainers case. Judge rules that the unions attempt to raise wages was a criminal conspiracy; that if two or more conspired to do something jointly the public interest was endangered.
The Depression of 1819 hurt unions, forcing wages downward. Established a 100 year policy of boom times, unions strong. Poor times, employers welcomed strikes. National Labour Relations Act of 1935 slowed this pattern down some; but still some remains. Why?
When prosperity returned in 1822, union strength rose. New England textile mills. Mechanics Union of trade Associations formed in 1827. Different crafts into one body. Father of AFL-CIO, really.
Commonwealth vs. Hunt in 1842 slowed down employer blacklists. Said union activity was not a conspiracy. Not a lot of effect, since depression again. Depression, declining skill requirements, surplus of labour and no protective legislation made factory life rough in the 1840's. 1850's boom times, unions grew again. Mostly narrow craft organisations. National Typographical Union 1852 was attempt to put all craft workers into one group.
Civil War to 1886
Civil war was good for unions; mass industrialisation was the rage. Folk like John D. Rockefeller in oil, Andrew Carnegie in... [continues]
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