Labor Relations Through the Ages

  • Polish Craftsmen Strike

    The Polish Craftsmen Strike was the first recorded strike in North America. However, labor organization has become more common throughout American history, grown to encompass a larger number of workers, and recieved higher recognition as a powerful economic force. Therefore, although the Polish Craftsmen Strike began a trend that would continue through American history, it was only the beginning of a movement that would have an enormous influence on the United States.
  • Coopers and Shoemakers Guilds

    The first guilds in the United States, the Cooper and Shoemaker Guilds, are formed, representing the first significant organization of labor.
  • Federal Society of Journeymen Cordwainers

    This society was created after a series of strikes to secure stable and higher wages for shoemakers in Philadelphia. It was one of the first official labor societies, as well as the first to deal with wages, employ collective bargaining, and the idea of a closed-shop.
  • Combination Act of 1799

    This royal act prohibited the organization of laborers into trade unions.
  • Commonwealth v Pulis

    In 1806, the leaders of the Federal Society of Journeymen Cordwainers were arrested and charged as being conspirators after attempting to once again raise wages. This case is the first recorded case to deal with labor unions and strike, setting an important precedent.
  • Commonwealth v Hunt

    This was a landmark court decision that stated that labor unions were legal organizations and could not be charged with conspiracy.
  • National Labor Union

    The National Labor Union was founded in 1866 in the hopes of uniting smaller movements under a large banner. Although relatively unsuccessful, it paved the way for organizations such as the Knights of Labor and American Federation of Labor.
  • American Federation of Labor

    The AFL was probably the most influential and successful labor organization in the nation during the industrialization period.
  • Knights of Labor

    The Knights of Labor Organization, the most influential union of the late 19th century, was founded.
  • Tompkins Square Riot

    The Tompkins Square Riot occured in 1874 in the midst of the Panic of 1873. It involved thousands of unemployed laborers who gathered in Tompkins Square in New York City, providing a foreshadowing for the potential power of mass labor movements.
  • Workingmens Party

    The Workingmens Party, later the Socialist Labor Party, was founded in 1876 and still exists today. It represented the effects of labor movements and economic development on political ideology in the United States.
  • Bureau of Labor

    The federal government established he Bureau of Labor to investigate labor conditions, showing a major leap forward in governmental involvement and interest in labor movements.
  • Union Pacific Railroad Strike

    One of the largest mass strikes in the United States up to that point, the Union Pacific Railroad Strike is was a movements stemming from the Knights of Labor.
  • Haymarket Riot

    Haymarket Square began as a peaceful worker rally, but escalated when an unknown person set off a bomb in the crowded square. This set off an riot that ultimately destroyed the Knights of Labor organization and scarred the public image of labor unions.
  • Homestead Strike

    Beginning in a worker lockout and leading to open combat between strikers and Pinkerton guards, the Homestead Strike was one of the bloodiest labor incidents in American history.
  • Cripple Creek Strike

    Miners in Cripple Creek went on strike when it was announced that they would now work a ten hour work day. State militia had to be called out to protect the miners and prevent further violence.
  • Pullman Strike

    This nationwide strike once again demonstrated the power of organized labor reform. It ultimately led to the disintegration of the American Railway Union.
  • Leadville Strike

    Miners in Leadville, Colorado went on strike due to poor working conditions. This led to the Western Federation of Miners stepping up of policies and union efforts.
  • Newsboys' Strike

    In New York, newsboys went on strike to protest their poor treatment and pay. This provided inspiration for a number of later strikes, as well as the hit musical Newsies. :)
  • IWW Founded

    This incredibly radial coalition was founded by western miners at a convention in Chicago. The IWW stands for Industrial Workers of the World.
  • ILGWU Strike

    This strike was held by the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. They demanded a 20% pay increase and a reduced work week to 52 hours. After only two days of this strike over 20,000 workers from 500 different factories walked out on the same terms. This strike then became the largest uprising from union women in US history.
  • First State Required Minimum Wage

    Massachusetts puts in place a new law to require a state wide minimum wage requirement, this especially helped women and minor workers at the time.
  • Post WW1 Strike Boom

    After WW1, strike participation grew to an all time high. More than 120,000 textile workers and 40,000 coal workers left their jobs to go on strike for better working conditions.
  • National Labor Relations Act

    This law signed into effect by former President Roosevelt provided unions with protections when they gathered, and put into place procedures in order to ensure more fair union elections.
  • Fair Labor Standards Act

    The Fair Labor Standards Act established the legal requirement of a 40 hour max work week, and any time worked after that negates time and a half pay.
  • American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations

    The AFL-CIO is the largest federation of unions in the United States and a national trade union center. The organization helps workers who want to come together to form unions and informs them of their rights as a union worker and what their employer can or can not do in regards to their union status.
  • Equal Pay Act

    This Act amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to include discrimination in pay based upon gender.
  • Postal Strike

    This Postal Strike was the first national spread strike of public employees. More than 200,000 postal employees walk away from their jobs, and even though its technically illegal the employees still get their wishes granted; a modernization of the postal system.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act

    This law changed the way health and safety were regarded within the private sector job market, and gave workers more consitutional protections if they were hurt due to workplace negligence.
  • Coalition of Black Trade Unionists

    The CBTU is a non-profit union of African Americans within the AFL-CIO, this union is exclusive to African American unionized workers.
  • Major League Baseball Strike

    The strike that occured within the MLB at this time was over teams wanting to charge teams when hiring a free agent. The players striked against this, and almost had to cancel the World Series but came to a compromise in August.
  • Hormel Foods Strike

    This strike was confusing and ill-planned by the workers. Even after getting advice from their national union that this strike was not a good idea, the workes truged on with it. The workers still continued their strike even after Hormel met their demands.
  • Employee Free Choice Act

    The House of Representatives passes the Employee Free Choice Act that protects every worker's right to join with other workers in a union, and protects these unions against management interference, whether it be trying to prevent the union or to threaten the union.
  • Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

    President Obama signed this Act shortly after his inaguration. It resotred congressional protection of unfair wage discrepancy and gaps.
  • Conclusion

    Therefore, although the Polish Craftsmen Strike began a trend that would continue through American history, it was only the beginning, and it changed the way economic standards were handled with the American people. A similar series of events occured in Europe during the early industrial revolution, countless unions were founded and grouped into foundations.
  • "Bonus Point" Question

    How were the larger strikes, i.e. the Postal Strike or the ILGWU Strike different from smaller strikes? Were their goals similar, or were the smaller stirkes more focused on specifics while the larger were more focused on a wide improvement of working conditions?