Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Labor unions are formed as a means of workers banding together for protection against the abuses of management. Beginning in the late 1770s, there had been temporary labor union in the United States. These would form with a particular goal in mind and disband once that goal was achieved. For...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Labor unions are formed as a means of workers banding together for protection against the abuses of management. Beginning in the late 1770s, there had been temporary labor union in the United States. These would form with a particular goal in mind and disband once that goal was achieved. For instance, carpenters in Philidelphia united to organize a strike in 1791 to demand a shorter workday. However, after this strike accomplished its goal, the carpenters of Philidelphia dissolved this alliance.

As the Industrial Revolution went on, the need for collective bargaining in the face of exploitation by business owners grew. Factory workers, in particular, saw that they were considered expendable and advocating for better working conditions and fair pay would often lead to their dismissal. By the last decades of the 19th century, the need for organized labor to protect the rights of the workers was palpable.

Workers were realizing that if they banded together they could collectively bargain with management to achieve their goals. If a single worker lays down their tools in protest, they could be fired and replaced. However, if a majority of workers agreed not to work until their demands were met, they could significantly reduce productivity in a company and make it less costly for management to simply agree to their demands.

Throughout the late-19th century and early-20th century, labor unions were able to negotiate such things as safer working conditions, shorter workdays, better pay, and a five-day workweek. By forming a collective, workers are able to provide each other with mutual protection and be much less vulnerable to the abuses of management than if they acted alone. As such, labor unions became some of the most effective and powerful organizations of the era.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team