The latter half of the nineteenth century was a transformative time in the United States, as the economy shifted from one that was primarily agricultural to one that was industrialized.
Technological changes fueled industrialization and allowed for increasing mechanization. There was a shift from needing skilled workers to needing unskilled workers and from self-employment to receiving wages from another. Unskilled workers were in large supply, in part because of increasing immigration, so they were often forced to work long hours for little pay and with no benefits. Workers also faced dangerous conditions such as factory fires, injuries from machines, and illness from pollution.
In response to these poor working conditions, many industrial workers organized into labor unions such as the Knights of Labor, the American Federation of Labor, and the American Railway Union. These unions helped promote workers’ interests and attempted to improve working conditions through collective...
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