The Topic:
Labor Movement

Easier - Until the early 1900s, people often worked long hours for low wages. The labor movement began as people started to work together to improve their work conditions. Although there are many laws to protect workers, there are still concerns about working conditions, particular the use of immigrants and children.
Harder - In the 1930s, the labor movement gained momentum. With an abundance of labor, employers could easily replace workers. Labor unions were formed to help workers get organized and bargain for their needs and rights. Workers created unions because groups have more bargaining power than individuals. When large groups of employees make joint decisions, employers are forced to listen to their concerns. For example, if all the workers in a factory stopped working at the same time, it would be difficult to keep the company operating.
Early unions in North America faced a difficult battle. Employers refused to accept the unions. The courts often declared the unions illegal. The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 and other laws required employers to bargain with unions. Political parties and other groups have also become involved with the labor movement.
Organized labor is not as powerful today as it once was. However, many people such as construction, factory, and industry employees are members of unions. Although they have helped workers earn higher wages and better working conditions, some people think they are too powerful.
Canadian Labour History from Canadian Museum of Civilization
This web site traces the history of Canadian Labour with the aim of showing how it served its members while forcing broader reforms on our nation.
Related Websites:
2) American Labor History by M. Lause
3) Eclectic List of Events in U.S. Labor History by A. Lutins
4) Labor Union Movement in America
5) Recent Trends in Labor and Employment
6) Red Robin's Labor History Pages
7) Women's Trade Union League by J. Johnson Lewis
Labor Arts
This online museum gathers, identifies, and displays artistic history of working people and celibrates the contributions of trade unions.
Related Website:
2) Labor Heritage Foundation
This website was developed to publicise struggles and campaigns for workers rights.
Other Comprehensive Sites for Current Labor Movement Information:
2) LabourStart
3) UnionEyes
Unions: Then and Now
Dramatic changes took place in the American labor movement in the 1930s. Most of the significant legislation affecting labor unions now was passed during the New Deal.
After visiting several of the websites on the labor movement, complete one or more of the following websites.
Join the Fight Against Sweatshops. You can find lots of proactive ideas at Stop Sweatshops from UNITE. Decide what should be done at the local level, in your region, and your country. Change starts with us.
Create a Labor Movement Timeline. Trace the important events in the North American labor movement. Compare the movements in the US and Canada with the rest of the world.
Compare Child Labor Issues. Compare the child labor issues of 1900 with the issues in 2000. How are they alike and different?
Build a Protest Poster. Select a particular event related to the labor movement history. Create a poster that shows the issues and concerns of the workers.
Debate the Role of Labor Unions. Take on a particular current or historical role such as employee or factory owner. What impact do or did the union have on your life?
Compare the Role of Unions Yesterday and Today. How have unions evolved over the past century? What role should they play in the future?
Explore a Labor Movement Leader. Individual people played important roles in the labor movement. Pick a labor leader and write a persuasive letter about why that person should be in the "Labor Movement Hall of Fame."
Complete A Labor Movement WebQuest. Follow or adapt the instructions found at the following webQuest site:
Labor History WebQuest by P. Hewitt
Websites By Kids For Kids
Exploring the United Farm Workers' History by C. Peterson and S. Diaz (1999 ThinkQuest Internet Challenge)
This project presents the history of the UFW through it's online simulation, 'The Grape Boycott.'
Sometimes Violent History of the Labor Movement
1984: The Pullman Strike from Chicago Public Library
The Pullman Company cut wages a number of times in the 1880s and '90s, but failed to reduce the rent in the company owned housing. This double squeeze lead to dire economic circumstances for the workers. Workers struck the car works May 11, 1894.
Related Website:
2) Gene Debs and the American Railway Union
Agnes Burns Wieck: A Leader of Joan of Arcs -- Part I by M.L. Hawse from Suite 101
Part I or a two-part article about Frances Burns Wieck, a feminist, socialist, labor organizer, and writer who was active during the first part of the twentieth century.
Related Website:
2) Agnes Burns Wieck: A Leader of Joan of Arcs-Part II by M.L. Hawse from Suite 101
American Federation of Labor
Founded in 1886, the A.F. of L. was the largest labor organization in the United States in 1912.
Bisbee Deportation of 1917 by T.J. Dorich
The article explains the complexities of the involvement of the Western Federation of Miners and the Mexican labor unions, with whom the I.W.W. was often at odds.
Child Labor in America from The History Place
This website Features the original photos and captions by Lewis W. Hine.
Other Related Websites:
2) Child Labour 1750-1850 from Encyclopaedia of British History
3) Child Labor from PBS Kids: Learning Adventures in Citizenship
4) Children of the Coal Fields: Classroom or Breaker? Part I by M.L. Hawse at Suite 101
5) Children of the Coalfields: Classroom or Breaker? Part II by M.L. Hawse at Suite 101
6) Fields of Hope: Child Labor in Agriculture
7) Promises Broken: Child Labor
Dramas of Haymarket from Chicago Historical Society and Northwestern University
The Haymarket meeting and bombing, the subsequent riot, arrests, trial, and executions, and related events of the period form one of the most remarkable episodes in the history of Chicago, the United States, and of working people everywhere.
Related Websites:
2) Haymarket Affair
3) Haymarket Tragedy
First Labor Day Parade by T. Watts
Here is a brief summary article on the first Labor Day Parade.
Related Websites:
2) History of Labor Day from U.S. Department of Labor
3) History of Labor Day
4) May Day and the Labor Movement by M.L. Hawse from Suite 101
5) Origins of Labor Day from PBS Online NewsHour
Great Flint Sit-Down Strike Against GM 1936-37
This 'classic' Progressive Labor Party pamphlet was written in 1965 a time when the party was working to put down roots among industrial workers and build a base for revolution.
Related Websites:
2) Great Flint Sitdown
3) Historic 1936-37 Flint Auto Plant Strikes by V.M. Baulch & P. Zacharias, The Detroit
In the Midst of Terror She Went out to Her Work -- Part I by M.L. Hawse from Suite 101
This article describes the cold-blooded murder of union organizer Fannie Sellins.
Related Websites:
2) In the Midst of Terror She Went out to Her Work-Pt. II by M.L. Hawse at Suite 101
Joe Hill from PBS
Learn the story of Joe Hill, a labor organizer executed by the state of Utah in 1915.
Related Websites:
2) Joe Hill by G.M. Smith from Utah History Encyclopedia
3) Joe Hill Collection (Photographs)
4) Joe Hill (Labor Quotes)
5) Joe Hill - Murderer or Martyr?
Labor-Management Conflict In American History
This website focuses on the 1886 Haymarket Square Riots, the conflict in the Pennsylvania coke regions, the Molly Maguire movement in the Pennsylvania anthracite coal fields, the 1982 Homestead steel strike, strikes in the anthracite coal fields of Pennsylvania, and the 1905 Chicago strike.
Labor-Management Conflict in the Eastern Panhandle: Perfection Garment Company Battles the ILGWU by J. Jenrette
From the early 1930s until 1953, changes in the industry intensified animosity between labor and management. Most of the conflicts in the 1930s mirrored general trends in the national labor movement and reflected the economic pressures of the Great Depression.
Labor Movement
This site tells of some of the songs of work and the labor movement.
Related Website:
2) Folk Music from eduScapes 42eXplore
Life and Conflict in the New World from Emma Goldman Online Exhibition
Upon arrival in America, Emma Goldman's romantic hopes were soon shattered by the dismal realities of working-class life. Settling first in Rochester, New York, she found factory work harder than in Russia, and joined in the growing militance against the inequality and inhuman working conditions that characterized industrializing America.
Mary Harris (Mother) Jones: c. 1837-1930'es.html
This brief article explains who 'Mother Jones was and her importance as a union organizer.
Related Website:
2) Autobiography of Mother Jones
3) Mother Jones: The Miners' Angel by M.L. Hawse
4) Mother Jones: The 'Miners' Angel' - Part I by M.L. Hawse from Suite 101
5) Mother Jones: The 'Miners' Angel' - Part II by M.L. Hawse from Suite 101
Massacre at Ludlow: Prelude by M.L. Hawse from Suite 101
This article describes conditions and events in the southern Colorado coal fields during the early twentieth century. What occured then led to the brutal massacre at Ludlow where men, women, and children alike were systematically butchered and burned by law enforcement officers and militiiamen.
Part Two:
2) Massacre at Ludlow: Murder and Arson by M.L. Hawse from Suite 101
Massacre at Republic Steel by W. Bork
Ten demonstrators were killed by police bullets during the 'Little Steel Strike' of 1937.
Report of the National Trades' Union Convention of 1834
Lean about the first attempt at a national labor federation.
Samuel Gompers Papers
This is the website of a documentary editing project that collects, annotates, and makes available to as wide an audience as possible, primary sources of American labor history. Site includes a biography, photos, and more.
Related Website:
2) Samuel Gompers 1850-1924
Seattle General Strike Project
The Seattle General Strike of February 1919 was the first city-wide strike anywhere in the United States to be proclaimed a "general strike." It led off a tumultuous post-World War I era of labor conflict that saw massive strikes shut down the nation's steel, coal, and meat packing industries and threaten civil unrest in a dozen cities.
Story of Triangle Fire
The fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City, which claimed the lives of 146 young immigrant workers, is one of the worst disasters since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. This incidence has a great significance to this day because it highlighted the miserable working conditions to which unskilled industrial workers can be subjected.
Related Websites:
2) Triangle Shirtwaist Fire -- Part I by M.L. Hawse from Suite 101
3) Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Part II by M.L. Hawse from Suite 101
4) Triangle Tragedy from PBS Kids: Learning Adventures in Citizenship
UMWA: Its Presidents in Historical Perspective - Part I by M.L. Hawse in Suite 101
This article, one of four parts, presents brief biographical sketches of the first four presidents of the United Mine Workers of America.
Other Three Parts:
2) UMWA: Its Presidents in Historical Perspective -- Part II by M.L. Hawse in Suite 101
3) UMWA: Its Presidents in Historical Perspective -- Part III by M.L. Hawse in Suite 101
4) UMWA: Its Presidents in Historical Perspective -- Part IV by M.L. Hawse in Suite 101
More Websites on the Labor Movement
Business & Human Rights by C.L. Avery
The aim of this 'online library' is to provide access to a wide range of materials and to promote informed discussion of important policy issues including human rights, development, labour and environmental organizations.
Federal Labor Laws
This website provides a summary of federal labor laws.
Related Website:
2) Major Union Legislation
Labor Quotes
Here is a compendium of quotes on labor subjects.
National Labor Committee (NLC)
This is a human rights advocacy group, dedicated to promoting and defending the rights of workers.
Related Website:
2) Human Rights for Workers
Sweatshop Watch
This coalition of labor, community, civil rights, immigrant rights, women's, religious & student organizations, and individuals is committed to eliminating sweatshop conditions in the global garment industry.
Related Websites:
2) Behind the Label
3) National Mobilization Against SweatShops
4) Stop Sweatshops from UNITE
5) Sweatshops
6) United Students Against Sweatshops
Labor and Working People's Organizations
AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations)
This is the website of union organization representing more than 13 million working women and men nationwide.
Related Websites:
2) AFL-CIO and the Struggles of Labor
3) Labor Day Festival from AFL-CIO
AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees)
AFSCME with its over 1.3 million public service and health care workers is an active and powerful union.
American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
This is the home website for union teachers.
HomeNet: International Network for Homebased Workers
Millions of workers, most of them women, carry out different forms of paid employment in their homes. But because they work behind closed doors, their work is invisible and rarely recognised.
ICFTU (International Confederation of Free Trade Unions)
This confederation of national trade union centres links together the trade unions of a particular country, and membership is open to bone fide trade union organisations that are independent of outside influence and have a democratic structure. Set up in 1949, ICFTU has 225 affiliated organizations in 148 countries and territories on all five continents with a membership of 157 million.
Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)
This is a union dedicated to organizing on the job, in our industries and in our communities both to win better conditions today and to build a world without bosses, a world in which production and distribution are organized by workers themselves to meet the needs of the entire population.
Related Website:
2) Preamble to the IWW Constitution
International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation
This international organization brings together 217 affiliated groups in 110 countries, with a combined membership of over 10 million workers.
Maquila Solidarity Network
This is a Canadian network promoting solidarity with groups in Mexico, Central America, and Asia organizing in maquiladora factories and export processing zones to improve conditions and win a living wage.
Women Working Worldwide
This is a UK based organisation which supports the struggles of women workers in the global economy.
This union represents skilled trades and production workers in automotive and heavy trucks, aerospace and defense, farm and heavy equipment, and other manufacturing industries.
United Farm Workers of America
Here you can find information about the Farm Workers and César Chávez..
UNITE (Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees)
In 1995 a new union was formed by the merger of two of the nation's oldest unions, the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) and the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU).
U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project (US/LEAP)
This organization focuses especially on the struggles of workers in Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, and Mexico who are employed directly or indirectly by U.S. companies.
Websites For Teachers
Brief Study of the U.S. Labor Movement from Colonial Times to the Present
There are three major parts to this lesson. Part one requires several group activities. Parts two and three will be done as individual reports/presentations. In part one you will be assigned a period on labor history as found in the Illinois Labor History Society web page.
Curriculum of United States Labor History for Teachers by J.D. Brown, Jr. sponsored by Illinois Labor History Society
The U.S. has the bloodiest history of labor of any industrialized nation on Earth. It is a story rich in human drama and tragedy -- a story of progress and hope. This is a resource that teachers can use to incorporate our rich social and labor history into their courses.
Labor Unions (Grades 6-8) by K. Kraf from AskERIC
This lesson is designed to provide students with a broad introduction to labor unions.
Lesson Plans for 'Unions: Then and Now' by P. Hewitt
Here is a collection of five lessons on the labor movement during the Great Depression.
Special Issue on Labor History (Volume 11, No. 2, Winter 1997) from Organization of American Historians Magazine of History
This special issue is devoted to teaching labor history.
Untold Stories
Here is a series of ten lesson plans based on the St. Paul (MN) Labor History Map.
Great Depression
trade union
worker rights
red scare
union organizer
folk music
'witch hunt'
union card
craft union
migrant farmworker
working people
working conditions
living wage
work environment
free trade zone
child labor
maquiladora factory
industrial revolution
company owned housing.
company store
labor & wages
health care
unemployment protection
union official
minimum wage
collective bargaining
Labor Day
40-hour work week
union member
Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 6/02.