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Labor Union History

  • Bacon’s Rebellion

    Bacon’s Rebellion
    Although this did not involve any sort of labor union, this rebellion was an early example of a group of laborers protesting conditions. A group of indentured servants, frustrated by Native American attacks that they had to deal with, drove Berkeley, the governor who did nothing about the attacks, out of the town. The rebellion did not end until England interfered and put in another governor. This attack led to the more common use of slaves over indentured servants.
  • Textile Mills

    Textile Mills
    The textile mill was an important industrial innovation that greatly improved manufacturing speeds, creating higher expectations of workers and leading to factories with poor working conditions for the workers. It was created by Samuel Slater who used England’s designs to improve factories in America.
  • National Labor Union

    National Labor Union
    The union wanted an 8 hour work day. They wanted restrictions on immigrants entering America and an end to convict labor systems. They were mildly supportive of black men and women. The Panic of 1873 killed the National Labor Union.
  • The Grange

    The Grange
    The Grange were a group of farmers who felt oppressed. They wanted farmers to come together for the common economical and political good. These farmers got together to exchange information on crops, on harvesting, and would try to get government to regulate grain storage.They tried to fight railroad monopolies. The significance was that it eventually dies out and the Alliance Movement formed.
  • Knights of Labor

    Knights of Labor
    It was led by Terence Powderly. They accepted blacks and women. They supported temperance, equal pay for women, graduated income tax, and end to convict labor. They didn’t like strikes; instead they focused on legislative reform. Won a significant strike against Jay Gould’s railroad, and helped to win the passage of the Chinese exclusion act. Took part in Haymarket Square incident; after that, the union ended because they did not want to be associated with the violence in the strrike.
  • Farmers' Alliance

    Farmers' Alliance
    It was an organization that united farmers. It was considered the first “national” organization of farmers. The Farmers' Alliance led to creation of Populist party. They sponsored social gatherings, were active in politics, and fought against railroad and manufacturers. The significance was that they eventually formed into the Populist Party.
  • Haymarket Square

    Haymarket Square
    The Knights of Labor held a labor union meeting in Haymarket Square in Chicago. Police soon arrived and as tensions built up, someone threw a bomb at the police. The police then fired at the crowd. Seven police officers and four civilians died, and many more were wounded. Although they never were able to figure out who exactly threw the bomb, eight of the protest leaders were consequently arrested. This ended the Knights of Labor. It was viewed as a set back for labor unions.
  • American Federation of Labor

    American Federation of Labor
    It was led by Samuel Gompers. It only allowed skilled workers to be included, not interested in blacks or women. They were not interested in broad reform; they thought that management and labor would never agree. They supported 8 hour work day. In the early 1900s, they got involved in politics. It was one of the first federation of labor unions. It was more successful than the Knights of Labor because they were more involved with politics than strikes.
  • Homestead Strike

    Homestead Strike
    It was a strike with Carnegie Steel against workers. The workers were mad because of cut wages. Frick closed the mill and locked out workers. The workers seized the mill and sealed town off from strike breakers, Frick summoned private police force, the Pinkerton Detective Agency, to protect non-union laborers he planned to hire, workers fought with Pinkerton's,.Carnegie called in National Guard to restore order. It was not successful. It was a setback for American Labor Movement.
  • American Railway Union

    American Railway Union
    It was led by Eugene Debs. They participated in the Pullman strike by boycotting Pullman cars, but their strike was unsuccessful. After the strike, Debs was put in jail, which led to the end of the union.
  • Coxey's Army

    Coxey's Army
    The protest was led by businessman Jacob Coxey. The Panic of 1893 left many people without jobs, so 500 jobless men marched with Coxey from Ohio to Washington D.C and demanded that the government provide them with jobs. The protest ended when they were imprisoned for trespassing and trampling flower beds. It was very significant because it was the first time that people demanded jobs from the government.
  • Pullman Strike

    Pullman Strike
    George Pullman fired many workers and cut wages, but kept the prices for rent within his labor town the same. Many of his workers were now unable to pay for rent so they striked. Scabs were sent in to replace the workers, and so the workers seeked help from the ARU, who helped by boycotting Pullman cars. Troops were shortly sent in to break up the strike, sent in by President Grover Cleveland on the grounds that they were disrupting the sending of mail. The strike was ended and ARU was ended.
  • continued: Pullman Strike

    continued: Pullman Strike
    The signifiance was not only that it ended the ARU but it also helped to defeat President Groover Cleveland's chance at reelection. This strike failed as a workers movement against wage cuts.
  • United Mine Workers of America (UMW)

    United Mine Workers of America (UMW)
    This union was created in order to help coal miners increase their wages and working conditions. Mary Harris Jones (Mother Jones) advocated for miners to join this union, and held parades for people. They striked in 1902 and dramatically reduced coal production. Eventually, they were able to restore previous reductions in wages by threatening production. This union was one of the few successful ones during its time.
  • The International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU)

    The International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU)
    On March 25, 1911, a big workplace disaster occurred called the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. 146 garment workers died from a large fire or by jumping to their death. The fire caused people to improve factory safety standards. It also started the ILGWU. This Union fought for safer working conditions. They raised a relief fund for the families at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.
  • Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)

    Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)
    The IWW was a large, radical labor union seen to be very threatening to the US government because of their large numbers, power, and radical ideas on how to end worker-management disputes. Its members were called “Wobblies,” and the group contained people from all wages, races, and genders. Their members, although large in number, did not usually stay in the union for very long, and only stayed for a short period of time during a strike. In the 1920s, as anti socialist and anti radical ideas spr
  • Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

    Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
    A large disastrous fire occurred in 1911 called the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. People were locked inside of the factory, and had no way to get out once the fire started. Many jumped out of the windows of the building to their death in order to escape the fire, and 146 people died in total. The IGLWU gained momentum from this incident and protested these bad working conditions, and raised funds for the families of the victims.
  • National War Labor Board

    National War Labor Board
    The National War Labor Board or (NWLB) was founded to minimize labor disputes during World War 1. On the board were representatives from business and laborers. It settled any possible labor disputes that could have stopped productivity in the war effort. In order to prevent disputes, they encouraged high wages and eight hour workdays.
  • Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO) (part 1)

    Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO) (part 1)
    This union was created by the UMW and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, who were frustrated by the AFL’s slow organization in November of 1935. This union welcomed all people, no matter what gender, race, or skill level, since the AFL started to become more restrictive. Following the passing of the Wagner Act, unionization spiked and this organization was created within the AFL.
  • Committee for Industrial Organization (continued pt 2)

    Committee for Industrial Organization (continued pt 2)
    Since there was little unionization in the steel, automobile, and textile industry, they preached unionization in these fields in Pittsburgh steel mills, Detroit auto plants, Akron rubber factories, and southern textile mills. In 1936, they held a strike against the steel industry in order to encourage unionization, and in 1937 the union was recognized by the steel industry, raising wages and setting a forty hour work week.
  • Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO) (continued part 3)

    Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO)  (continued part 3)
    In 1936 they also had a “sit-down” strike at General Motors where the workers peacefully stopped working and occupied the factories. General Motors production came to a stop, and eventually they got a contract signed with GM recognizing the United Automobile Workers. The Committee for Industrial Organization broke away from the AFL entirely in 1938 and became the Congress of Industrial Organizations.
  • Fair Labor Standards Act

    Fair Labor Standards Act
    Although this act did not directly affect labor unions, the FLSA was created during the great depression and mirrored labor unions’ goals by eliminating detrimental working conditions. It set a minimum wage of 40 cents per hour, created a maximum 40 hour work week, and prohibited most child labor, which many labor unions previously fought for.
  • National War Labor Board (NWLB)

    National War Labor Board (NWLB)
    This labor union was recreated during WW2 by Roosevelt after Wilson had used it in WW1 to minimize labor-management conflict. It was made up of political, business, and labor leaders. They provided labor-policy recommendations as well as ways to minimize conflict between management and laborers. The NWLB also had control over wages with airplane, automobile, shipping, mining, telegraph, and railway industries throughout WW2. The NWLB largely had the same purposes as it did in WW1.
  • Smith-Connally Anti-Strike Act

    Smith-Connally Anti-Strike Act
    Also known as the War Labor Disputes Act, this act was passed during World War 2 over FDR’s veto following a coal miner strike that protested lowered wages due to wartime inflation. This act allowed the president to seize any war production factories if a strike threatened war production. It also greatly hurt unions by prohibiting their strikes, and if they tried to strike without a 30-day notice to their employers, they could be held liable for charges.
  • Wagner Act

    Wagner Act
    As a part of the second new deal, this gave workers the right to organize, join unions, and allowed these unions to bargain with companies in order to gain mutual aid and protection. Additionally, it created the NLRB, which prohibited unfair labor practices by employers. Although the Wagner act was very helpful in allowing labor unions to continue their practices, it did not extend these rights to employees working in airlines, agriculture, railroads, and the government.
  • Strikes of 1946

    Strikes of 1946
    Nearly 4.5 million workers protested for higher wages since prices were increasing, including mine workers, and trainmen. The United Mine workers walked out, paralyzing the economy for 40 days. Truman negotiated for them to go back to work, but they then decided to walk out again. At the same time, railway engineers and trainmen protested for higher wages, threatening to shut down the nation’s railroads. The strikes ended with the unions giving in when Truman threatened to draft the workers.
  • Taft-Hartley Act

    Taft-Hartley Act
    This was created during Truman’s administration, passing over Truman’s veto. It barred closed shop, which were workplaces that required workers to join a union. It also banned secondary boycotts, which were boycotts against the suppliers of the targeted business. Additionally, it required union leaders to sign anti-communist loyalty oaths and allowed the president to delay strikes that endangered national safety or health. This was bad for labor unions and caused a decline in union membership.
  • Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization Strike

    Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization Strike
    PATCO went on strike during Reagan’s presidency, who was opposed to unions. He used the Taft-Hartley Act in order to make them disperse, and when they refused to comply, Reagan fired all of them and banned them permanently from entering federal labor.