How labor unions in the 20th century improved the standards of living Essay

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The late 19th century was a period when the American labor market started taking a new turn. This happened during the industrial revolution when the markets had a lot of openings for new job seekers. From 1935 to 1985 the number of the labor unions increased from around 50,000 to 3 million. The labor unions that formed were basically intended to organize the workers who were working for the capitalist. They struggled to achieve equality among other rights that were necessary for the workers (David, 1985).

By achieving equality for the workers, the labor unions intended to eliminate favoritism by the management in the working environments especially on the issues related to wage increments and also promotions in the work place. Before the formation of the labor unions in the twentieth century, the increase in the wages was based on the decisions of the managers. This was also the case for any promotions and trainings required for higher positions. To earn a little respect from the top was based on whether the managers liked you or not.

This worked to stress the employees who had no say for their working conditions, their health, their benefits, promotions among other things within the work place. The labor unions that rose during the period have however seen a turn of events and the workers are now living better lives than they would be without the unions (Charles 1987). The early twentieth century was the best decade for most American workers following the improvement of the working conditions favored by the ongoing labor movements of the time.

There was massive growth of labor unions during the time that enlightened the unacceptable working conditions that existed on the ground. During this decade, Children were part of the working community and they had to bear with the unsafe and unhealthy working conditions that existed in the factories. There were no laws that prevented child labor within the United States. There were a large number of children working in the mines, factories among other sections of the economy. Other improvements that came to be were the improvements regarding the labor laws in respect to the female gender.

During this time, the American industries grew at an alarming rate opening very many job opportunities there was also a large influx of immigrants in the United States and this gave another reason for the change of the labor laws. By mid 20th century, there were labor laws that were prohibiting the employment of children and specified the minimum age when one could hire an employee. There was also the women suffrage movement that took women to greater heights in improving their working conditions. Women were now able to compete for the same positions with the opposite gender without so much discrimination.

This improved the living standards by empowering the women economically. As the industries grew, so did the labor unions which advocated for better working conditions, healthy environments and also better pay for the American workers. There was massive membership from the workers who were very optimistic of better working conditions through the labor unions(Charles, 1987). The labor unions in the United States which developed in the 20th century were mainly focused on the campaigning for the better interests of the American workers (Charles, 1987).

They were comprised of mainly members who were American workers. These movements managed to negotiate for better working conditions from both the government and also the private industries. The factors that influenced the formation of the labor parties included the economic and the political factors that were prevalent in the market. The formation of the Labor unions was actually met with a lot of hostility and many employers viewed them as a hindrance to the job market. Most of them survived as political parties before they were fully accepted as labor parties.

The economic situation was on its expansions which demanded many individuals to enter the job market. With increasing working population the labor unions took it upon themselves to ensure the workers were not robbed of their rights by the employers. This was made possible by massive campaigning of the employees to join the labor unions which would collectively demand for rights of every employee under their body. The conditions of employment improved a great deal during this period.

The labor unions have come a long way in improving the living conditions of most American workers. The influences of the labor unions have worked to secure better working conditions for the employees. There was also the improvement in the wages that were awarded to the employees. This helped the workers to improve their economic status and being able to afford many of the items they could not purchase. It also enabled the workers ability to rent and also own better houses. This led to great improvement in the livelihoods of many individuals.

One of the major achievements of the labor unions of the 20th century is ensuring that the employees were able to secure all the payments that were due to them from the factories. Later the labor laws that followed ensured that the employees were able to acquire their rightful payments for the services they offered (David, 1985). Labor unions were also able to help the employees get a channel to get employment benefits from their employees. This included insurance against unemployment though unfair dismissal, health benefits, funeral benefits and also benefits at old age.

Such benefits such as the health insurance have helped many people improve their lives by being able to acquire quality health services. By enforcing the enactment of such benefits schemes the employees are able to remain healthy through out their working period and this is complemented by the pension schemes that continue to provide for the employees after retirement. The medical insurances also cover some of the immediate family members and thus this means by working under the membership of unions the whole family will be provided with medical benefits.

Unions were also organized to secure the legal rights of the employees and they also managed to negotiate for professional training for the employees amongst other representations that concerned the employees. The labor unions usually negotiate for higher wages and also better working conditions for the employees with their employers. The labor unions are strong in such a way that they are able to organize for strikes for the members in order to demand for attention from the employers and also the government in case their requests on the rights of the employees are not met (Philip S, 1974).

The labor unions have come a long way in helping the American workers amongst other workers in the market get civilization in the work place. Although most Unions were advocating for the employment opportunities for the whites only, other unions and civic labor unions have greatly advocated for good working conditions for both domestic and the international employees. It is also through these labor unions that the employees are able to secure other forms of financial assistance from the employers. For example the labor unions help the employees negotiate for loans from their employment groups.

With the financial assistance, the employees can be able to do many things in their lives such as getting higher education, purchasing homes, cars among other economic goods that help improve and smoothen the lives of many (Eric, 19642). Other labor unions actually go as far as negotiating for special repayment periods and terms for the employees which greatly supports their members. Other motives such as promoting the women workers in the society have helped to improve the living conditions of many individuals.

The labor unions have also helped to improve the standards of living by enabling the workers acquire dignity and respect in the working environments. Labor unions have also brought democracy for the workers. With such democracy the employees are able to work in any place as long as they are qualified. Respect within the work environment helps the employees feel more comfortable, gain acceptance and liking for the jobs they do. Labor unions managed to ensure that the terms of employment are stated in a contract and that both the employer and the employee have an obligation of fulfilling the terms of the contract.

The benefit of the contracts is that they negotiate for a whole group of individuals as opposed to specific situations. This has made it possible to improve the living standards of many since every one who is under these unions benefits from the terms negotiated by the Union. Losing jobs is also not very easy as it was before the unions were formed. In the 20th century, although the workers were not slaves and they were not forced to work at any particular company, the prevailing job conditions made one keep hunting for a job to earn a living (Leon,1983)

With the formation of the unions, employees do not have to keep changing jobs because they are working in poor environments. Such employees today use the labor unions to appeal for better services and treatment from the employers. This has contributed in raising standards of living since it stabilizes the job market. Employers are also afraid of ill treatment of the workers since the labor unions are going to enforce the legal justice. With such work environments, the employees will be more comfortable and willing to perform their duties to the best of their abilities.

Through the various training sessions the workers are able to acquire better skills which enable them get higher ranks within the job market. This has also improved the living standards since as one grows in experience, education and training they are in a better position to get higher paying jobs that help them raise their living standards. Through the labor unions the voice of the employees can be heard. For the living standards of the employees to improve, there was a need for a channel that would enable the employees air their grievances to their employers.

Through the labor unions the employees have a source of power for say in what they want. Through the pension schemes enabled by the labor unions the employees are able to earn a living even after retirement. They are in a position to continue with their normal life just like a working person since they have the economic power of purchasing the goods and services they were enjoying when working. The labor unions of the 20th century also helped to stabilize the economic condition in general.

Labor is one of the factors of production in the market and without its stability, the economic activities of a country cannot be stable. Through the labor unions, most sectors of the economy have stable labor and this ensures that the productivity of the economy is also stable. With the improvement in the economy everybody will benefit through the improved living standards that come along with growing economy. A productive economy will be able to offer good medical services to its citizens, good infrastructure, availability of affordable goods and services among other services (Philip, 1979).

Labor unions are a source of power for the employees within the economy and without them the employees cannot be able to effectively demand for their rights. With the presence of the labor unions the employers are able to ensure that the welfare of the employees is well taken of because the failure to do this will affect the operation of their businesses. Besides, the labor unions have enabled the employees get higher qualifications and for the employers to win the services of such employees they have to offer good packages that will attract the employees.

This has improved over time and labor unions grow with the growth of the job market and they are quick to negotiate for any new benefits and opportunities of improving employees living conditions that arise in the market. In conclusion labor unions in the 20th century were a great necessity in the job market. The many ill motives of the employers towards the employees were put to an end. It saw the realizations of respect, dignity and acquiring of democratic rights of the employees.

The labor unions are especially honored for their ability to ensure that employees are able to get their dues in time and fairy according to the job they are doing. This includes getting fully payment for the working hours besides getting extra payments for any overtime hours or work done in odd hours. Labor unions of the 20th century are also complemented of their ability to help the employees negotiate for better working conditions (Selig,1928). They now benefit from the many schemes whose foundations are traced to these labor unions of the 20th century.

Employees living conditions have continually been raised through the benefits they acquire from their employees such as the health insurance, house allowance, and pension schemes amongst other benefits negotiated by the labor unions. Without the labor unions the job market would be different from what it is today.


Brody, David, 1985. Workers in Industrial America: Essays on the Twentieth-Century Struggle. New York. Oxford University Press. Fink, Leon,1983. Workingmans Democracy: The Knights of Labor and American Politics. University of Illinois Press, Foner, Philip S, 1974.

Organized Labor and the Black Worker, 1619-1973. New York: International Publishers. Foner, Philip S, 1979. Women and the American Labor Movement: From Colonial Times to the Eve of World War I. New York: Free Press. Freeman, Richard and James Medoff, 1984. What Do Unions Do? New York, Basic Books. Heckscher, Charles C, 1987. The New Unionism: Employee Involvement in the Changing Corporation. New York Hobsbawm, Eric J, 1964. Laboring Men: Studies in the History of Labor. London. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. Perlman, Selig, 1928. A Theory of the Labor Movement. New York, MacMillan Publishers.

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