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, their 10-hour work day remained the same (Doc. A). Factories were headed by large corporations; this, in turn, meant that new machines lessened the amount of workers in certain fields. As a result of these unsuitable conditions, labor unions were formed. The challenges that these unions faced weren’t easy. If the workers involved in organized labor got too far out of line, these corporations could get federal authorities involved. Moreover, these companies could enforce “ironclad oaths” upon their employees. In a Western Union Telegraph Company employee contract, in 1883, it states that the employee will not be affiliated with any societies or organizations (Doc. E). Despite such setbacks, by 1872 there were over 32 national unions.
There were several specific labor unions and strikes that affected the general public. In 1866, the National Labor Union was formed. Their main goal was the 8-hour work day. The National Labor Union did have some setbacks in achieving this goal; one in partic...

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...e general public was finally beginning to recognize that workers had the right to both organize and strike. The federal government was also taking note of the plight of factory workers. In 1895, the Supreme Court stated that it was charged with the duty of regulating interstate commerce (Doc. H). Overall, labor unions produced chain reactions that caused others to make strides toward equality within society.
Without the aid of organized labor, workers would not have been able to persuade others to help them in their fight for better working conditions. Labor unions also influenced people within society to recognize the problems that workers were facing during the late 19th century. All in all, the feelings that many once had about strikes were what changed the most; this allowed for ideas that would later cause corporations to rethink their business methods.

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