Labor Unions in Industrial Revolution

Why fight for justice? Justice has been a striving issue for American citizens for years. These citizen’s justices include those in which should be granted in the workplace. Labor unions have resulted from the mistreatment of employees and the unsafe or unfair working conditions, a very common occurrence during the Industrial Revolution.

In an endless struggle for justice, organized labor unions fought, and continue to fight for rights deserved in working environments. The evolution of labor unions during the Industrial Revolution proved to be beneficial then as well as the modern day.

During the Industrial Revolution, many workers were put out of employment or had their wages reduced because of uprising machinery. For example, the cost of cotton yarn decreased because of the technological and industrial advances. These advances also reduced the amount of needed workers (Rempel 2).

Many employees disagreed with assembly line machinery over man-labor because they needed their jobs for familial financing. With a redundant amount of machines, it reduced need for human hands, which inevitably, reduced worker’s wage (Hooker 4).

After machine-production, most factory employer’s wanted workers fit for exactly what they needed them for. In the late 1700’s, many women and children were hired for factory work because of their small, nimble body structure, which makes them capable of running and fixing the meticulously designed machines.

Another employment preference is most directly women workers because they were easier to manage and to teach machine work to than men and could be paid less for the same job. Furthermore, single women were employer’s top interest because they were predicted less likely to strike and protest against the corporation.

A surplus in female factory employment resulted in family problems because the “caretaker” of the family could very likely be working twelve hour days and oftentimes getting sick from unclean work conditions (Ellis and Esler 204). Their call for help in their industrial issues was soon answered by a group of organized laborers, more commonly referred to as a labor union.

In continuation, the concept of labor unions is quite simple. Labor unions have working members fuse together to become a powerful force. This powerful force works to gain them rights (Bernard 5). In a local union, such as United Auto, Aerospace, Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) Local Union 787, union members can consult problems to union stewards.

If the union stewards can’t handle the situation, they bring it to the union committeemen. If the committee can’t resolve a problem with management, a grievance is filed against the company and then it’s taken to outside arbitration. For every five union workers, a union steward is hired for on the job duties, meaning he is at the place of employment with his union workers to observe wrongdoings and hear reasonable complaints (McHugh and Ratchford 11).

The reason for this complex system of protection for worker’s rights was created for the equality of members in the workplace. “There is some protection to ensure that an employee may not be dismissed for clearly discriminatory reasons of race, gender, disability, or age.

But that same employee can be black, female, older, white, male or whatever and as long as the dismissal is for ‘no reason,’ it’s legal” (Bernard 2). Labor unions strive for the protection of such job dismissals because they believe that without such laws, companies would do exactly what they please, including firing someone for absurd reasons.

Many of these actions took place in the Industrial Revolution because companies were strictly in the business for profit and not concerning themselves with the workers and the working environment. Another reason for their fight against discrimination is that the labor movement, especially in America, is the most diverse membership organization with millions of members, meaning that they will fight for anyone, despite discriminatory reasons (Bernard 7).

Labor unions are essential for pulling rights, equalities, and alike treatments out of society and into the workplace (Bernard 4). Most often overlooked, the problems of the Industrial Revolution (1750-1850) were overshadowed by the technological and industrial advancements. An increased concern with new machinery reduced the concern for employees and the overall conditions of the workplace.

Without labor unions, working families could have major finance troubles, would be at the mercy of unscrupulous employers, and countless safety hazards which would affect society in nothing but negative manners. In conclusion, the lack of labor unions can have a severe affect on all aspects of living because working is the one necessary key for lifelong survival.

Bernard, Elaine. “Why Unions Matter.” Harvard Trade Union Program. 3 Feb. 2004


Ellis, Elisabeth G., and Esler, Anthony. World History. New Jersey:

Prentice Hall 2001.

Hooker, Richard. “The Industrial Revolution.” Posted 6 June. 1999.

Washington State University. 3 Feb. 2004

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McHugh, Robert T., and Ratchford, Frank X. “An Agreement Between a Labor Union

and Company.” Agreement Between Textron Lycoming and the International

Union (UAW) and its Local Union 787. Williamsport: 1 April 1994. 10-13.

Rempel, Professor Gerhard. “The Industrial Revolution.” Posted 14 Oct. 2002. Western

New England College. 3 Feb. 2004.

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