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Workers in America - Essay Example

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During the early 19th century, labor wages in the US for both unskilled and skilled labors were 30-50% greater than those for similar type of labors in Europe. Consequently, the high wages triggered a great surge of workers from Western Europe to the US. These European workers…
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Workers in America
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Workers in America

Download file to see previous pages... As the labor movement picked momentum in the second half of the 19th century, many labor unions, like the International Typographical Union, the Knights of Labor, rapidly rose in the US (History.com Staff). Among all, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) emerged as one of the first and dominant federations of labor unions in the US (“American Federation of Labor”). The purpose of this paper is to discuss the origins, the political and social perspectives, and the major labor activities that the AFL involved in during its lifetime.
By the early 1980s, over 42 international labor unions were present in the US (Jones et al. 2). However, labor unions in the US remained feeble over the years. By the late 1870s, mere 3% of the overall labor force and hardly 8% of total industrial workers possessed membership of labor unions (Simkin). In 1881, Samuel Gompers (a Dutch immigrant) and some other local leading skilled workers in specific sectors, like cigar making, carpentry, and printing, established the “Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions” (FOTLU) in the US (Welling). During that era, the Knights of Labor was the largest organization that included many small labor unions and it had played a vital role in some of major labor strikes of the period (“AFL”). However, the Knights of Labor’s leadership had occasionally supported its rival trade unions which had compromised for lower wages and supplied strikebreakers during other trade unions’ protests or strikes (“AFL”). The Knights of Labor enrolled even small employers as its members to chase social reform and challenge capitalist ideology. It had little interest in local labors’ issues, like wage scales, qualifications of workers, working conditions, strikes, or particular trades (Jones et al. 2-3). The Knights of Labor lost some crucial strikes which cost the union many members. Especially after the Great Southwest Railroad Strike and the Haymarket Riot of 1986, employers’ opposition ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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