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Violence in American Labor Unions’ History Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 5th, 2021

Introduction

Labor unions in the United States are legal entities, which act as representatives for workers in most American industries, especially in the public sectors. These unions normally focus on workers’ wages, workers’ working conditions, their benefits, and hence these unions can be seen as contracts between the organization and the workers. You find that in most of the public entities like schools, workers unions have b been established for instance the teacher’s service commission in Kenya and you find that in this organization, the teachers elect their leader every five years, and these leaders are supposed to represent teachers in terms of the terms of work so as a result, workers unions should be encouraged in almost every organization in order to ensure that the workers working condition is catered for. (Dewitt, 1978)

History of the American labor

This was a century of achievement whereby the workers united in America in the struggle of achieving the gains they accumulated during this century. They formed trade unions and appointed their representatives although this did not come so easily. But at the end of it all, they formed the unions using the collective bargaining process and fought against discrimination. It is clear that in the united states, labor is one of the leading factors in the growth of its economy and these unions have led to benefits in the public as a whole since it’s clear that it was actually labor that led to the introduction of public education for every child. In the United States labor second century, it had a set of goals to achieve with reference to the century of achievement. These unions have led to improving standards of living in America. (Dewitt, 1978)

Towards a federation of labor

The trade unions in America are as old as America itself. These unions started with primitive unions formed by pilgrims who arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620 and worked as craftsmen. These pilgrims had their much business, which included the following, carpenters, cabinetmakers, and cordwainers. These workers also played a significant role in the achievement of its independence. As work continued, they formed various unions which were intended to reduce the working hours from 12 to 10 hours a day and this was to show interest in the federation of coming together in order to achieve the selected objectives.

The number of local unions increased drastically in the mid 19th century. a better method of federal intervention occurred in the 1902 strike of coal miners whereby more than 100,000 miners called for a strike which kept the mine closed for a while. As a result, the president called for mediation and arbitration and after five days, the miners resumed their job. it was due to their strike which actually led president Theodore Roosevelt to award them with a 10 percent wage increase and the hours of work were reduced. (Embrey, 1985).

The AFL-CIO Years

The traditional labor objectives were expanded by George Meany’s commitment. This role included the full contribution to the welfare of the neighbors, the community in which they lived, and the nation at large. The merger of AFL_CIO led to improved working conditions. The first local union in the United States was formed in the 18th century and this was after the civil war. These unions remain an important political factor in the United States in both mobilizations of their own memberships and through many coalitions with like-minded activists organizations around issues like the trade policy. It is noted that the American labor unions have been infiltrated by the occurring organized crimes and these organized crimes were evident in some of the industries like the New York City industry. (Embrey, 1985).

Violence in the labor unions

The labor movement in the United States led to much opposition from the government and the public sector at large. These unions were seen to generate violence and lawless and this actually led to many debates on their formation. These union leaders were seen to incite the workers to go on strike. This in the end in the United States led the government to control them but the successful and growing organizations took advantage of the issue and formed labor unions. It is shown that the very first union with 600,000 members was formed in 1866 and its mission was to work towards social reform. In this union, workers were in a position to address their needs, which included health conditions, safety in the working place, producer’s cooperatives.

One of the violence in the American labor unions is evident in the Pullman company’s biggest strike in 1980. Here the workers had actually complaint of cut wages and as a result of the cut wages, there was no decreased rent so as a result, the workers went all over the town demonstrating this act. They too joined with the American railway union, which was also supporting their strike since they saw the habit as inhuman due to the cut-down wages. They also boycotted the Pullman cars. This strike actually had a wide effect in the sense that production reduced since there was no working taking place and hence as a result, this led to less production in the company leading to huge losses. At the end of the strike, at least 120,000 workers had lost their job due to this action and the factory eventually closed. (Das, 1923)

Another evidenced strike in the United States hypermarket in august May 4th in the streets of Des Plaines Street. The police on guard watched the riots helplessly. These riots threw a bomb and killed guard police at the police line and this act led the police to open fire towards the rioters. This actually led to injuries of an unknown number of guard police and pedestrians. (Embrey, 1985).

Role of violence in the labor unions

Violence in many unions actually plays a central role in the working conditions of the workers. When there is no proper hierarchy of leaders to follow by the workers, then you find that the workers have to go on strike so that their grievances can be heard. When workers working conditions like working for long hours, cutting down of their wages, increased house rents are seen in these organizations, then you find that the workers are supposed to go on strike so that most of these issues can be addressed from an instance in the united states, it was in the year 1902 strike, of coal miners whereby more than 100,000 miners called for a strike which kept the mine closed for a while.

As a result, the president called for mediation and arbitration and after five days, the miners resumed their job. It was due to their strike, which actually led president Theodore Roosevelt to award them with a 10 percent wage increase and the hours of work were reduced. It was then due to this act then that the worker’s grievances were heard and hence as a result, the working hours were reduced and the rate of wages increased. (Embrey, 1985).

When these unions are formed, you find that there is a set of selected leaders, which are appointed by the members of that union, and you find that these leaders act as a mediator between the organization board and the workers. So you find that in case of any problem with the workers, then they sit down together with those leaders, present their problems and it’s upon now the leader to ensure that they have represented the worker’s problems to the leaders above them. Violence and strikes were a common phenomenon in the United States and the workers saw it as a successful strategy so that their needs could be represented.

Workers in those days were used in more than 40 % of strikes and these workers actually had a strong faith in winning the strike. Strike breaking often plays a central role in accounts of the violence in the struggles between labor and capital in American history. Those striking workers led to the shutting down of production and this was actually achieved by persuasive and coercive means. Strike breaking uses ruthless tactics by those doing the strike and employers apply their efforts to break strikes and weaken unions. Strikes are seen to provide the workers with the opportunity for mass participation denied by the organization.

Journalist’s accounts of the strike-breaking popularized in the westerns of the time. Once these strikes turned violent, local or state authorities often entered the picture more often on the side of the employers. Strike breaking and violence actually became less violent after the Second World War and this was due to the creation of a legal and bureaucratic route to union representation and contract negotiation. (Das, 1923)

Negative impacts of violence in labor unions

Violence in labor unions can sometimes have negative impacts on the workers themselves, the community, and the nation at large. You find that when most of the time workers go on strike, some of the goals intended in the strikes are not achieved, and hence, in the end, the workers lose most of their jobs like in the case of Pullman company biggest strike in 1980. This strike actually had a wide effect in the sense that production reduced since there was no working taking place and hence as a result, this led to less production in the company leading to huge losses. At the end of the strike, at least 120,000 workers had lost their job due to this action and the factory eventually closed.

The community also suffers in the sense that when workers go on strike, there is less production and this less production leads to less or no products in the market and this has a big effect on the people who consume that product. Nationally you find that when workers go on strike, if in case it was a production company, then you find that the rate of production has drastically gone down and in the end, this may lead to the slow growth of the economy. (Das, 1923)

Conclusion

Violence in labor unions is sometimes good since you find that it’s through violence by the labor unions that their needs can be heard. When workers go on strike, it’s usually upon the organization to have a dialogue with the workers and try to listen to whatever the workers have to say. You find that in most of the companies, workers are usually denied most of their rights and eventually misused. These workers are not given most of the essentials like good health care, good wages, house allowances among others, and this at the end motivates the workers to form the trade unions whereby these trade unions represent the workers and the workers can use these unions when they want to raise up something.

For these unions to be seen as legal, there must be a set of leaders who are appointed by the members of the union with good outstanding leadership qualities. These leaders are then supposed to represent the worker’s grievances to the authority above and dialogue should be conducted in order to ensure that strike-breaking does not at all occur due to the negative impacts of strike on the workers themselves, the community in which the organization is located and the nation as a whole. So it’s upon those in authority to ensure that dialogues are maintained since it’s only the safe way to solve such matters when they arise.

Reference

Das, R (1923). Hindustani Workers on the Pacific Coast: Overview of labors from India Working on the Pacific Coast. Berlin: W. De Gr4uyter.

Dawley, A and Joe, W (1994). Race and class, Labor history. Review of Scholarship onU.S. Labor Movement.

Dewitt, H (1978). The Filipino labor union: The Salinas Lettuce Strike of 1934.Amerasia Journal.

Embrey, S (1985). Chinese labor Boycott in Los Angels. Gum Saan Journal.

Espiritu, Yen Le (1996). Colonial Oppression, Labor importation, and group formation: Filipinos in the United States. Ethnic and racial studies.

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