the history of the labor movement
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THE HISTORY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT
B Y S T E P H E N K O P P E K I N
First StepsIn 1842, the court case Commonwealth v. Hunt resulted
in labor unions being declared legal. This opened the
door for the formation of nationwide organizations like
the National Labor Union, Knights of Labor, and others.
O R G A N I Z I N G L A B O R
19th century unions campaigned for better pay,
an eight-hour workday, better working conditions,
and some even went so far as to demand medical
care and other causes.
While some unions were more inclusive, like the
Knights of Labor, many unions refused to admit
African-Americans, Chinese immigrants, women,
or unskilled laborers to their ranks.
S T R I K E S
Unions' most powerful tool was the strike. In
fact, there were over 37,000 strikes between
1881 and 1905.
In 1893, 250,000 workers in 27 states went
on strike to demand better conditions and
pay; however, this massive demonstration
ended with a decisive defeat for the forces
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