The Labor Union Movement After the Civil War
The new industrial age that came after the Civil War led to tremendous economic growth in the US. A large number of Americans went to supply the unskilled labor needed in industries. The abundance of unskilled workers gave the factory owners an advantage as they could overwork them while paying them poor wages. The trade unions emerged to tackle the supposed injustices inflicted on workers by the factory owners. The growth and development of the labor union movement were promoted by the decreased wages paid by large corporations. Poor factory conditions also increased support for labor unions. Most factories did not care for the safety of their workers, and they required them to work for long hours.
Through labor unions, workers could collectively bargain for better safety standards and shorter work hours. The existence of the Contract Labor Law, which enabled corporations to recruit cheap immigrants at the expense of Americans, also encouraged the growth of the labor union movement. The American workers felt that they could fight for laws to guarantee their job security through these movements. The labor unions, such as the Knights of Labor, formed in 1869, were able to overturn wage cuts through strike actions. This encouraged more people to join the unions and benefit from collective bargaining. The American workers resented the immigrants who came in large numbers to the US. This view was reflected by labor organizations that began to take on exclusionist attitudes against the newly arriving immigrants, especially from China and Japan. The black population was also discriminated against since they created undue competition for unskilled jobs. The labor organizations supported racist policies that disadvantaged the Blacks and new immigrants in the workforce.