Labor Unions in the Late 19th Century America

Topics: Trade union, Collective bargaining, Industrial unionism Pages: 4 (1503 words) Published: February 13, 2014
During a time period of great advancement in technology, the late 19th century could appropriately dub itself as an industrial revolution. Rapid transformations of the work-place worsened working conditions and prompted the common laborer to join forces with others in order to create labor unions. Although these unions were fueled with excellent intentions and driven by exasperated motivation, these organizations did little to improve the working conditions during this particular time frame. It wasn’t until the 20th century that tangible changes in the workplace, stability in personal finance, and the public’s perception of their motivations that organized labor truly improved the position of workers from 1875 to 1900. Although labor unions sought to improve the conditions of the workplace, there was not an immediate response by corporations in order to address these concerns. An employee’s contract with the Western Union Telegraph Company went as far as to demand that their workers do not affiliate themselves with such an organization (Document E). This corporation did not want the uproar of workers demanding better working conditions during their employment. In this way, big businesses could brush aside union activity and therefore workers could reap no reward in regards to their working condition but rather tolerate it in order to keep their job. Due to the famous invention of the light bulb by Thomas Edison, the workday could be extended past hours of sunlight to extend the work day to 10-14 hours a day. As a result of this invention, workers obviously wanted to lessen this demanding length of time in order to improve their position It then became the one of the prime focuses of the Knights of Labor founded by Uriah Stephens to pursue an 8 hour work day. However, it was not until the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 that this demand was nationally implemented and overtime was granted to workers who worked more than 40 hours a week. Previous to this...
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