The American Labor movement in the United States has a history dating back to the beginnings of the industrial revolution. Its existence is due to poor working conditions and exploitation during the beginning of that time. Labor unions have had a long history of using their most powerful weapon, strikes, to fight their battles. Even today, with the diminishing numbers of union members, strikes appear in the news sporadically. History of Labor Unions The first strike is thought to be by printers in Philadelphia in 1786 (Maidment, 1997). Working conditions, pay and benefits were so poor, leaders in the southern United States used them to justify slavery. Their contention was that slaves were treated better than the workers were in the North. (Maidment, 1997) Unions attempt to rectify poor working conditions, pay and benefits through collective bargaining. An individual has very little power when negotiating with an employer, however many individuals, collectively have the power to achieve results through bargaining and negotiating. The ultimate bargaining tool that the collective bargaining unit has is the right to strike. Strikes The United States has the most violent and bloodiest labor history of any industrialized country (Foner, Garraty, 1991). In 1850, police killed two New York tailors while attempting to disperse strikers. These were the first of over seven hundred documented caused by strike-related violence. In 1913, National Guardsmen attacked striking Colorado miners known as the Ludlow Massacre. In 1937, police killed Ten Chicago steelworkers during a strike, which came to be known as the Memorial Day Massacre. More commonly, though, strike related deaths are attributed to lessor known confrontations. Strikes in the United States are generally linked to the business cycle. Strikes are more common when unemployment is low with the lowest strike rate being during the Great Depression. The first American strikes in... [continues]
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