The History and Formation of Labor Unions in the Unites States of America

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“I regard my workpeople just as I regard my machinery...When my machines get old and useless, I reject them and get new, and these people are part of my machinery” (Sands 12). A foreman at a textile mill in Fall River, Massachusetts spoke these words in possibly the worst time during American labor history, the Industrial Revolution. During the Industrial Revolution, large numbers of people in the United States flocked to work in factories where they faced long hours, unsanitary and unsafe conditions and poor wages. Labor unions, or groups of organized workers, formed in the United States to ensure workers the right to a safe workplace and a fair wage in the face of capitalistic factory owners seeking wealth. In exchange, union…show more content…
Eventually, this want of free labor caused the slave traders to come to the United States in droves (Clark 12). This desire for cheap or free labor was not limited to farm and plantation owners. The factory system in the United States began to grow before the American Revolution with shops that made wares to order (Clark 14). In the mid seventeen hundreds, farmers and plantation owners would give raw materials like cotton or wool to other families to turn into things like thread and yarn for a share of the profits. This was called the “domestic system” (Sands 4). With this, private capitalism, or the idea that you get to keep what you earn, developed and reinforced the want of cheap labor. Since most people immigrated to the United States to work on farms and cultivate land, not many people worked in shops as skilled laborers, although there was a great need for them (Dubofsky 3). Some villages were so desperate for blacksmiths and carpenters that they bribed these workers to come and work there. Curiously enough, many skilled laborers wanted to leave their positions because they wanted to become farm owners on the seemingly endless free or cheap land in the new country, but they were not allowed to leave their positions (Clark 13). Through all of this, the small shops were developing. From the beginning of the colonies, skilled craftsmen took on journeymen and apprentices to work for them to learn the

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