The Evolution of Trade Unions in the 1870s to 1880s Name Instructor Task Date The 1870s and 1880s were revolutionary times, and the American economy was expanding. This period was marked by industrial growth and population increase, as immigrants from south and Eastern Europe sought greener pastures in America…
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This period was marked by economic growth, and there were many job opportunities for both skilled workers in the many industries that were being set up. Chicago and Philadelphia were a favorite with the immigrants, and during these times, there was an influx of unskilled workers in the regions hoping to get employment (Reynolds, 2009). However, the economy gains did not extend to the unskilled workers, and this was a rough time as there were no systems to cater to their needs. Laborers were exploited and survived on low wages and poor working conditions (Skurzynski, 2008). Most of them lived in slums and had to work for long hours in dangerous conditions and ended up having miserable lives in the United States. There were many unskilled workers looking for employment, and the industry managers took advantage of the large pool of workers. In the early 1870s, the idea of trade unions was not popular yet. Workers did realize there was a need to join them, but most memberships stayed below one percent of those employed. In this period, there had been no successful trade union and most of them collapsed even before they had made any major improvements. Most of them were known for their extreme antics to gain what they wanted, and they did not have a good status with employers and consumers. Some even went to the extent of crime, violence or even threatening and intimidating workers to join or employers to meet their demands (Skurzynski, 2008). By the end of the 1870s things began to look up. The civil war era was coming to an end, and the American economy was on its way to a revival. With the economy showing signs of recovery, there was hope for trade unionists to pick up the pieces and revive the laborers movement. The environment was conducive, and there was an influx of immigrants seeking employment in America who were willing to join the trade unions. With improved memberships, there were more voices to push their agenda, and this led to political ambitions. This saw the rise of the Workingmen’s party of the United States, which later changed its name to the Socialist Labor party due to its success and popularity among immigrants (Richard, 1998). The late 1870s through to 1880s is the period when trade unions began to thrive. Though it was a period characterized by failing unions due to opportunism and lack of cohesiveness, they found their foothold. By holding peaceful boycotts laborers were able to push for better wages. It was a start that had many obstacles, but it as a dawn of a new era, a progressive era and change was inevitable. Laborers were becoming increasingly aware of their rights and trade unions were their refuge. However, It was a trying time too since most trade unions were not popular. Trade unions in the 1870s and 1880s were mainly craft unions. These are unions where people with similar skills such as carpentry, construction and rail workers came together to form a union. These were representation of workers in a single occupation who found it much easier to demand for better wages as a united front (Skurzynski, 2008). A trade union’s main aim is to ensure fair working conditions for its members. It seeks to address members’ problems by negotiating with employers on their behalf. This was an era of change and widespread awareness that there was the need to come together and put up a strong face to push for
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