Why Did Labor Unions First Form

The first forms of work organization in the United States were largely mutuals or craft guilds that restricted access to a trade and enforced workplace standards, as was the case in Western Europe. It didn`t cause too many hacks or too many problems because the craftsmen were relatively few and most of the businesses were small. But industrial development in the early nineteenth century slowly widened the gap between employers and skilled workers, so workers began to view industrial factories as a threat to both their wages and status. They quickly formed young artisan unions to resist sudden wage cuts, longer working hours and unsafe working conditions, while protecting their political, social and economic rights. Most of these unions were locally oriented, but as labor and product markets became more national due to improved transportation, and as employers continued to cut wages and jobs, workers came to believe that they had to organize on a broader basis if they wanted to be effective. But they met with enormous resistance from employers and had little success until the 1890s. The Federation of Organized Trades and Unions was founded in 1881 and the AFL was founded five years later. Their combined organizational power led to the Act of Congress which created the Department of Labor (DOL) in 1913. The Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914 allowed workers to strike and boycott their employers; This was followed by the Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act (PCA) of 1936 and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which required a minimum wage, overtime overtime, and basic child labor laws. Later, the AFL-CIO played a crucial role in passing civil rights laws in the years 1964-1965. “Many provisions of this law are clearly aimed at preventing not only coercion, but also an active interest of the employer in the issue of collective bargaining, as far as workers are concerned. It is fair to say that the law encourages the organisation of external trade unions and discourages plans for workers` representation” (Memorandum to Clients, No.

13, p. 1). The core of this document focuses on the unlikely events that led to the passage of the National Labour Relations Act of 1935 (NLRA). The NLRA was an important turning point in the history of American workers because it aimed to put government power behind the right of workers to organize unions and collectively bargain wages, hours of work, and working conditions with their employers. However, the conservative coalition in Congress continued to look for ways to hinder unionization throughout the war. She found the opening she was looking for when Lewis, who had refused to sign the promise of a strike ban, ordered the miners to strike for an age increase of $2 a day in early June 1943. In response, Congress passed the War Labor Disputes Act, which gave the president the power to take control of industries essential to the continuation of the war that were threatened by strikes. It also prohibited unions from using dues for campaign donations to political candidates. Roosevelt vetoed the bill, but the conservative coalition and its moderate allies on the issue lifted the veto slightly. Despite his veto, Roosevelt used the law a year later, when 10,000 transit workers went on strike to protest a Decision by the Fair Employment Practices Commission that the city`s transportation company should employ African Americans as streetcar and rapid transit operators. This action by white workers was one of many signs during the war years that racial segregation would remain a major problem for the unions in the post-war period. The age-old problem of racism has been a key, if not the key, factor in the rapid decline of unions in the face of opposition to the civil rights movement and the integration of neighborhoods and schools by at least a significant minority of white workers.

As tensions over labor issues mounted, Fosdick wrote an extremely revealing letter to Rockefeller on March 22, 1934, warning him that he and the IRC would have to hold back a lot because there would likely be strong clashes with the workforce. Fosdick began by stressing the importance of the IRC, but later stated that he should “introduce a reservation that is in no way incompatible with the enthusiasm I have just expressed” (Fosdick 1934). He then remarked, “One of my responsibilities in the 21 years I have spent with you has been to highlight the possible dangers that await you in relation to your various interests.” By this he meant that Rockefeller and IRC could be drawn into the class conflict between corporations and unions, which he cleverly reformulated and mitigated as “a head-on collision between the union and the factory union.” Because of these conflicts, he is “not entirely convinced that the distanced attitude we have adopted so far can be maintained.” As profound technological changes began to undermine the artisanal production system, some national unions turned to an industrial structure, especially in coal mining and clothing. .