America has not always been as free as it is viewed today. Events occur in the United States constantly many view as unjust. A big portion of this started when America began to industrialize. The farming in society slowly became less of the most popular job. Many factories were built, and started requiring more hands on workers to get things produced. There were no laws put into place to protect who worked, so many kids were placed into factories to work for little pay and long hours. People began to recognize the treatment of workers, so labor unions begun to form to try to prevent and overall protect workers.
Labor unions defined are simply groups, “created in an effort to protect the working population from abuses such as sweatshops and unsafe working conditions” (Cussen 2019). During the industrial period of America, many children were put to work. Since they were small and could not advocate for themselves, children were walked on. They were required to work from dusk till dawn. They received the bare minimum payments. They were given little to no breaks, they were treated very poorly. They didn’t get to be kids. Not just children, but many adults were treated the exact same, with poor conditions. If you got hurt at work, you were required to get fired. You may have had a work related accident, but you’d still be dismissed from work, without pay. It started to become a realization to people that this was not the way workers should be treated. People began thinking of ideas to stop this treatment.
Many strikes were made in an effort to stop this treatment. One in particular was the railroad strike. A paycut was made, so workers began to protest. They paralyzed railroad traffic throughout the country. The troops fired on the workers, killing twenty of them. So the workers went and burnt the city railroad yards. This gave people in the United States the feeling that national power was more focused on protecting property, not the citizens. Unions started to be formed, people were ready to start trying to receive the working conditions they deserved.
In the late 1800s labor unions grew rapidly. Everyone was working to get the rights they deserve, no matter what it took. Strikes, protest, ads, pictures, many different methods were put into place trying to get these rights. The groups worked hard, and their proof is still evident today. Many schools today read about the forming unions and their achievements. After some time the Fair Labor Standards Acts were put into place, these acts, “specifies at which times workers are ‘on the clock’ and which times are not paid hours. There are also elaborate rules concerning whether employees are exempt or non-exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act overtime regulations. The FLSA requires overtime to be paid at 1.5 times the regular hourly rate (‘time-and-a-half’) for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours during a seven-day workweek” (Kenton 2018). In simpler terms, it created laws on child labor and the amount of hours people are allowed to work daily.
The work of the labor unions was very successful. Now, in America many children are not even allowed to work until the age of sixteen, and even then, children can only work a certain amount of hours. Adults are given shorter work days and weeks. The work of the unions was a positive to America, and proved itself to help in many cases dealing with labor during the Industrial Revolution period.
- Cussen, Mark P. “The History of Unions in the United States.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 29 Jan. 2020, www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0113/the-history-of-unions-in-the-united-states.aspx.
- Kenton, Will. “What Is the Fair Labor Standards Act?” Investopedia, Investopedia, 29 Jan. 2020, www.investopedia.com/terms/f/fair-labor-standards-act-flsa.asp.