Labor Unions in the United States
The establishment of the American labor union was by no means an easy task. The workers were able to succeed only after much repeated failure. The first unions of workers came during the era of Jacksonian Democracy and were local. In the post-Civil War period attempts were made to create organizations of workers on a national basis. The National Labor Union was created in 1866 with the goal of establishing the eight-hour day. In 1868, Congress passed an eight-hour day for mechanics and laborers who worked for the US government, but progress elsewhere was slow. In 1872, after turning to national politics, the National Labor Union collapsed. After the Panic of 1873, there was labor agitation, but labor unions were unsuccessful in organizing support and eliminating unrest.
In 1878, the Knights of Labor was organized as a national union of both skilled and unskilled workers. Their platform called for the eight-hour day, boycotts not strikes, a graduated income tax, and consumer cooperatives. The Knights forced some concessions from several railways but collapsed after a general strike for an eight-hour day failed in Chicago and the Haymarket Massacre of 1886. One of the key weaknesses lay in the effort to bring together all workers, skilled and unskilled, whose wage levels and concerns differed greatly.
The next national union to be founded, the American Federation of Labor (AFL), was formed in 1886. It concentrated on organizing skilled workers. It continues today as the important AFL-CIO. Under its first president, Samuel Gompers, the AFL recognized the autonomy of each specialized trade, such as carpenters or cigar makers. The AFL formed the coordination group for these separate trades. Its program included laws curbing immigration, introduction of new machines and labor legislation to include the eight-hour day and workmen’s compensation.
Q1. What can be inferred about work hours in the US?
(A) They are typically longer for unskilled laborers.
(B) They were higher than 8 hours a day before the Civil War.
(C) They were tied to wage levels in many companies.
(D) They were the only concern of the first labor unions.
Q2. It can be inferred from paragraph 3 that skilled labors
(A) were mainly engaged in cigar making and carpentry
(B) held extremely independent attitudes that made it hard to form unions
(C) were generally opposed to greater levels of immigration
(D) were far more politically active than unskilled laborers
A1. (B) A2. (C)