Was the 1890s a TP for trade unions essay

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Assess the view that the 1890s were the most important turning point in the development of
trade union and labour rights in the USA in the period 1865 to 1992
Trade unions wanted to achieve three main rights including the right to exist and collective
bargain, right to strike and to improve workers' rights. Although trade unions achieved most of
their rights in the 1930s, their peak and most powerful period was in the 50s and 60s. The 1890s
was the time trade unions begun to develop and start to threaten the power of the `robber
barons' with powerful strikes.
Trade unions wanted the right to exist and collectively bargain with the employer. This was the
process where a group of employees formed a unit and bargained with the employer to better
their rights. In the 1890s, union membership was steadily growing reaching a membership of just
under a thousand by 1900s. This shows that Unions were slowly becoming recognised as
membership grew, meaning that employers were under more obligation to accept them. With the
creation of the first Industrial Union in 1893, the American Railroad Union, it meant that some
unskilled workers could be organised and recognised. This was important as previously mainly
craft unions only accepted skilled workers like the American Labour Federation (1874). However,
the ARU set a precedent that other industrial unions could do the same, making unions more
powerful. However, there were some negatives in this period, lessening the 1890s impact as a
turning point. For example, the Homestead strike in 1894 emphasised that industrial employees
were not recognised by their employers. The steel industry as a result remained deunionised for
the next 40 years. Additionally, the Pullman Strike in 1894 highlighted the employers' power and
dismissal of trade unions as George Pullman refused to discuss arbitration procedures. These
strikes proved that unions were not fully recognised and therefore undermined the 1890s impact,
making it less of a turning point. However, the 1930s were a major turning point in terms of these
rights as the National Labour Relations Board was set up in 1935 which gave workers the right to
join trade unions and permitted employees to elect representatives to collectively bargain.
Additionally, even industries such as steel and automobile manufactures started to accept trade
unions as a result of the New Deal. Workers started to get more organised with the establishment
of the CIO which accepted unskilled workers. Although many workers remained unorganised, this
was the first time that permanent legislation was passed to help unions be recognised by
employers. Therefore, the 1930s is the most important turning point because it was the start of
union growth which continued until the 60s. It was the first time Federal Government were on
side with the employees and it was the period where all trade unions were recognised unlike the
1890s where employers could choose to ignore unions and refuse to collectively bargain with the
Workers' rights was another right unions sought to achieve which included things like wages and
working conditions. The 1890s can be seen as a turning point because some workers' rights were
acknowledged, like railroad workers. For example, the Erdmans Act in 1898 set up a system of
arbitration for these workers, this was the process in which a union resolved an issue between the
employer and employee. This shows that some worker's grievances were being listened to,
however, how successful these systems were limited. Especially since some employers refused to
accept this procedure, like the Pullman Strike in 1894. Additionally, the Federal Liability Act
compensated railroad workers if the employer did not cover them. More importantly, 17 states
passed laws prohibiting employers from firing workers who were part of a Union. This shows that
some of the needs of workers were being listened to. However, it is not that big of a turning point
because only railroad workers were covered by these acts. The 1930s can also be seen as a turning
point with the Norris La-Guardia Act in 1932 which prohibited `yellow-dog- contracts which many
industrial companies used. More importantly, the Fair Labor Relations Act in 1938 introduced a

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Therefore, the 1930s is a turning point as radical, permanent legislation is being
made which gave the employee many work benefits. However, it can be argued that that the
position of women remained inferior as pay was still lower. Therefore, the 50s and 60s can be
seen as a bigger turning point as employees had many rights in including COLAs, safety benefits,
grievance procedures and holiday time.…read more


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