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Unions in the 1900's

Updated on May 28, 2016

Reflect on the working conditions and requirements on employees in the workforce of this country back in the early 1900s. Based on the resources provided in this module, do you believe there was a strong need for unions during this time period? Does the same need exist today? What has changed over time that has affected the role of unions in society?

I believe that there was a strong necessity for unions during the early 1900s. I felt that the videos from the history.com website showcased the extreme need for unions. The 1930s GM Sit-Down Strike video showed how the workers were often mistreated by factory foremen and that they had no recourse when fired. The foremen were allowed to fire their workers for any reason. In addition to the bad working conditions the workers were also paid low wages and due to the ability to fire workers for no reason dissent could lead to starvation. The creation of unions allowed workers a way to get better working conditions and pay. The unions were eventually able to get legislation passed to protect workers at their work places. According to the Fight to End Child Labor video the unions were essential to eventually ending child labor as well. The early 1900s was a time that was often dangerous to children as they were often put to work in factories where they faced the same workplace dangers as adults with half the pay. Without the unions child labor in the early 1900s might not have been outlawed which would have led to a mass of uneducated children.

The need for unions is different in present day than it was in the early 1900s. In the early 1900s labor unions protected workers and saved the lives of both adult and child workers. Unions in present day are still needed to protect the rights of employees, but not to the same extent as they had to in the past. Due the existence of laws that protect employee rights union membership has dwindled to the point of irrelevance in most workplaces (State of the Unions: What It Means for Workers and Everyone Else, 2012). The laws, in addition to employers understanding the need for good working conditions and compensations systems, have affected the role of unions in society. The decline of unions could potentially lead to consequences such as:

Research has shown a connection between union decline and the widening income gap. According to a study published last year by researchers from Harvard University and the University of Washington, the decline in private sector union membership between 1973 and 2007 accounted for between one fifth and one third of the growth in income inequality among male workers in the U.S. during that period (State of the Unions: What It Means for Workers and Everyone Else, 2012).

References

History.com Staff. (2009). Labor Movement. Retrieved from

http://www.history.com/topics/labor

State of the Unions: What It Means for Workers and Everyone Else. (2012.). Retrieved from

http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/state-of-the-unions-what-it-means-for-workers-and-everyone-else/

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