Posted by: kokoro | 22nd Jan, 2009

Babson, Intro and Chapter 1

The introduction discussed how some people consider unions to be obsolete and irrelevant today. I think as long as workers are being exploited and mistreated by employers, unions will have a purpose. So it’s pretty likely that unions will never be obsolete, sadly.

One statistic I found to be very interesting is that medieval farm laborers worked less than seventeen hundred hours a year, while American manufacturing wage laborers in 1901 worked twenty-eight hundred hours a year. Hm, laborers working more than serfs in the land of the free.

It’s interesting to see how unions developed within the thirty-ish year period described. 1877 shows the start of the modern American labor union, as well as the deadly force often used to suppress unions. The Knights of Labor was all-inclusive to women and blacks and had a particularly political agenda, but it declined following the Haymarket riot. It lost skilled craftsman to the American Federation of Labor, which had more selective, less political demands and more exclusive membership, with an increasingly hostile view towards blacks and immigrants. Nonetheless, organizations like the United Mine Workers of America were willing to accept black workers, showing that unions can be both a force of racial inequality as well as racial equality.

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