The Labor Movement in the United States has a Turbulent History
From the time that the American Colonies were established (in the early 1600s) there were labor struggles between workers and land owners. Indentured servants as well as slaves were used to make the rich richer. The United States of America was founded by Revolutionists who fought for their independence against an Imperialistic Power. Similarly, the stories of American Labor struggles have a sometimes radical and turbulent history that pitted working class people against Industrialists, Corporate Management and “Robber Barons” who used industrial spies, hired goons, police (local, state and federal), judges, a sometimes hostile press, propaganda and politicians (including mayors, governors and even some Presidents of the United States) to fight against worker rights.
Despite incredible odds against the American workers who engaged in labor struggles -
Fair Wages, Seniority Rights, Union Recognition, Anti-
The following papers, links to stories and videos are here for you to learn about the sometimes turbulent history of American Labor struggles. New items are continually being added…and if you have any comments, questions or contributions – just contact me…
United States Labor History
First of all it is important to define what an indentured servant was during the Colonial America era.
Indentured servants first arrived in America in the decade following the settlement of Jamestown by the Virginia Company in 1607.
The idea of indentured servitude was born of a need for cheap labor. The earliest settlers soon realized that they had lots of land to care for, but no one to care for it. With passage to the Colonies expensive for all but the wealthy, the Virginia Company developed the system of indentured servitude to attract workers. Indentured servants became vital to the colonial economy.
The timing of the Virginia colony was ideal. The Thirty Year's War had left Europe's economy depressed, and many skilled and unskilled laborers were without work. A new life in the New World offered a glimmer of hope; this explains how one-
Servants typically worked four to seven years in exchange for passage, room, board, lodging and freedom dues. While the life of an indentured servant was harsh and restrictive, it wasn't slavery. There were laws that protected some of their rights. But their life was not an easy one, and the punishments meted out to people who wronged were harsher than those for non-
For those that survived the work and received their freedom package, many historians argue that they were better off than those new immigrants who came freely to the country. Their contract may have included at least 25 acres of land, a year's worth of corn, arms, a cow and new clothes. Some servants did rise to become part of the colonial elite, but for the majority of indentured servants that survived the treacherous journey by sea and the harsh conditions of life in the New World, satisfaction was a modest life as a freeman in a burgeoning colonial economy.
In 1619 the first black Africans came to Virginia. With no slave laws in place, they were initially treated as indentured servants, and given the same opportunities for freedom dues as whites. However, slave laws were soon passed – in Massachusetts in 1641 and Virginia in 1661 –and any small freedoms that might have existed for blacks were taken away.
As demands for labor grew, so did the cost of indentured servants. Many landowners also felt threatened by newly freed servants demand for land. The colonial elite realized the problems of indentured servitude. Landowners turned to African slaves as a more profitable and ever-
During the 1930’s a political organization called the Black Legion splintered from the Ku Klux Klan. Their membership numbers were estimated to be between 20,000 and 30,000. They were active in the Michigan and Ohio areas of the United States.
The Associated Press described the organization on May 31, 1936, as a group of loosely federated night-
Twelve men associated with the Black Legion kidnapped and murdered Charles Poole, a Works Progress Administration worker. Their arrests and convictions led to the disbanding of the organization and its reign of terror.
The Great Sit-
The Molly Maguires were a secret society in 19th century Ireland and were active in the United States (although that has been debated for over 100 years.) The "Mollies" are mostly known for their activism against the repression of coal mine industry management and ownership in the Pennsylvania coal region area. After a series of often violent conflicts, twenty suspected members of the Molly Maguires were convicted of murder and other crimes and were executed by hanging in 1877 and 1878. The history surrounding the Molly Maguires remains mysterious and is part of local Pennsylvania lore.
United States Labor History -
César Estrada Chávez
Nelson Hale Cruikshank
Eugene Victor Debs
Thomas Reilly Donahue
Henry M. Flagler
Henry Clay Frick
Arthur Joseph Goldberg
Hubert H. Humphrey
Acronyms, Definitions and Terminology related to the Labor Movement in the United States
Ludlow Massacre in Colorado -
Council of National Defense -
19th Amendment gives Women the Right to Vote -
Battle of Blair Mountain -
Significant Events in United States Labor History
Recent and Current Events in the United States Labor Movement
Federal labor officials are going after Tesla over alleged workers' rights violations (Published: 8/31/2017)
One Effort to Close the Gender Pay Gap Won’t Get a Try (Published: 8/31/2017)
Labor movement may be down, but it’s not out (Published: 8/30/2017)
10 facts about American workers
News about Organized Labor, including commentary and archival articles published in The New York Times
The Rise and Fall of Labor Unions In The U.S.
John L. Lewis
Lucy Randolph Mason
Peter J. McGuire
Esther Eggertsen Peterson
Allen, Robert & William (Pinkerton)
A. Philip Randolph
John D. Rockefeller
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Notable People in United States Labor History
Child labor refers to the employment of children in any work that deprives children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, and that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful. During the Industrial Revolution (19th and 20th centuries) many children aged 5 through 14 mainly from poorer families worked in agriculture, home-