Chapter 20

Chapter 20: Big Business And Organized Labor

Research Topics

Organized Labor

Overview

Why did American workers form labor unions?

Laborers in the factories of the north sought to improve their standard of living. However, they often faced obstacles in this effort. Workplaces were unsafe and wages were low. Business owners wanted to make money, not share it with workers. Government officials, hoping to ensure law and order and to promote economic growth, often sided with industrial leaders. Labor unions took on these challenges and met with varying degrees of success. The Knights of Labor offered a grandiose vision of economic reform, but it did not survive the century. The American Federation of Labor was more successful but only aided skilled workers, a minority of the nation's labor force.

Sources

Choose from the following titles:

  1. The American Federation of Labor (1883), Samuel Gompers
  2. Labor's Vision: Preamble to the Constitution of the Knights of Labor (1878)
  3. Photograph: Samuel Gompers, head of the American Federation of Labor
  4. Photograph: Troops guarding the railroads during the Pullman Strike
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