Workers and Unions in the Gilded Age

  • Created by: Molly1999
  • Created on: 31-03-17 12:50

To what extent did improvements in the economy during the Gilded Age benefit workers and unions? 

It can be argued that the Gilded Age was a period of improvement for workers:

  • Wages (particularly for skilled workers) dramatically increased, by roughly 60%, despite a rapid increase in the available workforce caused by immigration. 
  • The increase in transport and heavy industry created an increased demand for labour. 
  • The number of craft orientated unions grew. 
  • Unions such as the KOL rapidly grew (in 1881 - 20,000 members, in 1886 - 700,000, including some women and African Americans).
  • The AFL was established in 1886 and was the first successful nation labour federation. It wanted to link all unions. Some businesses were willing to work with it and establish mechanisms by which business and workers could negotiate. 
  • Unions were able to extend their influence into politics at both a national and local level. 
  • Some sickness clubs, to which workers contributed so that they had some income if they were ill, were established but compensation was limited. 

It could also be argued that the period did not witness an improvement for workers:

  • It was a period of increasing inequality and…

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