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UNIONS: Yesterday and Today

As early as the 1700's, American workers began to organize into workers' associations. The first documented trade union was the Society of Journeyman Cordwainers (Shoemakers) in 1794. This and other associations were the forerunners for today's labor unions. During the 1800's the working people grasped the concept of working together to improve working conditions and wages. Business reacted to this with court injunctions to stop the labor movement, then with force if necessary. Unions were outlawed and moved underground.

It wasn't until the Railway Labor Act of 1926 that some workers had the right to join a Union. The National Labor Relations Act, of 1935. or as it is sometimes referred to. the Wagner Act, was and is the Bill of Rights for workers. (This Act allows all workers to freely join a union and bargain collectively through representation of their own choosing.)

The history of the American worker has been richly influenced by Unions working together to improve the work place for "all" workers whether Union or not. Unions can take credit for the passage of many federal labor laws, which most workers take for granted.

  • The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1947 provides for the forty hour work week and overtime after forty.

  • The Davis Bacon Act of 1935 provides workers with prevailing wages on any federally funded construction project in any given area of the country.

  • Social Security Insurance Act gives the American worker the chance to retire with some dignity.

  • The Occupational Health and Safety Act which provides for a safe environment in which we can work.

  • The National Labor Relations act of 1935 gives workers the right to band together for the benefit of all.

  • The minimum wage law is part of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

These are but a few of the many laws that protect the workers in this country. American workers can thank the Unions of the past and present for all the work place protection laws on the books today.

Workers must look to the strength of Organized Labor to insure that our future does not revert to our past. Unions are as vital to workers today as they were almost 200 years ago. To help insure this goal to better the lives of American Workers, use your legal right to join a Union, and become part of the history we make every day.

Union History

- Open Letter
- The Union
- History
- Myth vs. Reality
- Dues
- Negotiations
- Contracts
- Right to Organize
- Prevailing Wage
- Labor Management


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Business Manager - A. Neal Hall

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