Essay on Labor Unions and Effects on the Lives of Factory Workers

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Organized labor, during the period from 1875-1900, had drastic effects on the lives of factory workers. Labor unions not only sought to improve working conditions; they wanted to have a large impact on society as a whole as well. These unions also altered feelings toward organized labor. The Industrial Revolution that took place after the Civil War made for a more economically sound country. American workers, however, were becoming more and more dependent upon their wages; a fear of unemployment also stemmed from this. Workers didn’t share in the benefits that their employers reaped. In a chart representing the hours and wages of industrial workers, from 1875 to 1891, it shows that even though their wages were subtly increasing, …show more content…
In an editorial from the New York Times on July 18, 1877, it states that the railroad strike was merely just a result of ignorant men who couldn’t fully understand their own interests (Doc. B). This editorial also demonstrated the lack of sympathy that the general public felt towards strikers. A new union that formed after the disintegration of the National Labor Union was the Knights of Labor. These “knights” wanted both economic and social improvements, and to achieve the 8-hour work day. They won many strikes for the 8-hour work day, but were associated with anarchists on some occasions. Their little success with later strikes proved to be their eventual downfall. A union different from both the National Labor Union and the Knights of Labor was the American Federation of Labor. Founded by Samuel Gompers in 1886, this federation only yearned for fair shares and social improvements. Their motivations were demonstrated in a testimony of Samuel Gompers before a commission in 1899; in this he proclaims that unless working people strike, improvements will only go toward their employers, not them (Doc. I). Through their different appeals, the American Federation of Labor proved to be a standout union in the late 19th century. Between 1881 and 1900, there were over 23,000 strikes. The most profound weakness of these strikes, however, was that they only incorporated a small portion of

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