It is hard to overrate the significance of organized labor. However, at the end of the XIX century, it was only starting to gain its influence on society. Although not all goals of organized labor were reached at the end of the XIX century, the fundament for building democratic relationships between workers and employers were provided.
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What Speaks of Success: Knights of Labor
As a turning point in the history of American society, organized labor can be considered one of the moments that defined the further development of the state. The very fact that the labor issue grew so popular and started being discussed so much was also a sign of huge success. To emphasize how high the stakes were and how important the issue of labor restructuring became, one must mention Uriah Stephens and his “Knights of Labor,” a group of people who strived for improving living and working conditions of the working class (Brexel 17).
Also, the fact that the owners of the companies, as well as the government authorities, which supervised the issues within the state enterprises, made a range of concessions under the pressure of the Union. The most notable changes that made the bulk of the Labor Code and can be traced in the present-day labor regulations concern the following issues:
- Introduction of an eight-hour working day for all employees;
- Improving the wage system so that it would no longer be unfair and “degrading” (Lambert 38);
- Establishing around 140 cooperative workshops;
- Encouraging the government to regulate trusts;
- Abolishing child labor once and for all;
- Abolishing liquor from being consumed on the territory of a company in question;
- Making sure that political candidates from Labor Party should be integrated into the government system and influence the decisions of the Senate.
Failure Ahead: Industrial System and Its Limits
The process of organized labor development also had its flaws, which were, quite honestly, a reason for major concern. First, it was obvious that the newly adopted system was not going to introduce the principles of equality into the labor market; quite on the contrary, the people of African American descent, as well as women, were provided with the job opportunities that could not have been any less impressive – while the latter were usually hired for such positions as a typist, a bookkeeper, a secretary, etc., the former enjoyed, for the lack of a better word, the positions in service trade, or employed as strikebreakers, as credible sources claim: “The years immediately following the turn of the century marked the dramatic emergence of African Americans as a formidable strikebreaking force” (Norwood 78).
Analyzing the Changes in the Position of Workers
With that being said, it can be argued that the position of workers in the United States was improved considerably. On the one hand, the economic downfall that the United States witnessed at the time did not dispose of the evolution of workers and improvement of their skills. On the other hand, the appearance of new technologies and the growing influence of the American Federation of Labor can be interpreted as the elements that cemented the principle of democracy in the American labor system. Therefore, as per improvement of the situation that the United States was dealing with at the time, the changes mentioned above, probably, had little effect; however, on a larger time scale and in a larger perspective, the given changes contributed to the evolution of the current American Labor Code.
In conclusion, it is necessary to say that the organized labor served its purpose well in 1875–1900. Although not all goals were reached, major compromises were made. Therefore, the basis for building relationships between employers and workers were provided.
Brexel, Bernadette. The Knights of Labor and the Haymaker Riot: The Fight for an Eight-Hour Workday. New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Group. 2004. Print.
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Lambert, Josiah Bartlett. “If the Workers Took a Notion”: The Right to Strike and American Political Development. New York, NY: Cornell University Press. 2005. Print.
Norwood, Stephen Harlan. Strikebreaking and Intimidation: Mercenaries and Masculinity in Twentieth-Century America. Wilmington, NC: University of North Carolina. 2002. Print.