The Labor Movement: Unionizing Americaby Tim McNeese
Although organized labor has existed in some form throughout American history, the labor movement did not figure prominently in the relationship between management and worker until the second half of the nineteenth century. Due to large-scale industrialization during this period, coupled with an influx of immigrants, a new working class emerged to fill positions in American factories. In response, national labor unions were organized to address unsafe working conditions, low wages, and exceedingly long work days. As workers fought for better conditions, industrialists stood firm in maintaining the status quo. What resulted was a string of confrontations between labor and management. In several incidents during the 1880s and 1890s, workers went on strike and clashed with police who had been summoned by employers who refused to give in to their workers' demands. Despite the violence, labor unions gradually began to earn concessions from management. By the first decade of the twentieth century, the National Child Labor Committee had been established to set standards for child labor, and several states had passed labor laws to protect women. After persevering for decades, labor unions finally earned official recognition in 1935, when Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act.
About the Author:
Tim McNeese is associate professor of history at York College in York, Nebraska
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