Essay: Organized Labor
Organized labor was not successful in improving the position of workers between the years 1875 and 1900. The index of average daily wages increased only slightly, compared to the base year 1860.
Documents from the era suggest that the idea of protecting workers with labor unions may be have been a good one that moved away from its initial intention—to protect the worker. The union movement’s similarity with socialism and communism, combined with their attention to caused labor unions to be largely ineffective during the industrial revolution. Finally, the Supreme Court recognized that union activity had gotten out of hand and was threatening the United States’ economy as a whole.
Document A shows that between the years 1860 and 1875 the index of average daily wages rose showed a change of 169.2. The base year is 1860 with a value of 100. This change in wages does not show the entire picture. According to the table a person working 9.9 hours in 1860 earned 100. In 1875 the same worker would have earned 169.2. This table does not show inflation and how much it actually cost a person to live during these years. With this in mind, Document A shows that unions had different impacts on wages in different years. For example, wages actually decreased (compared to 1875) between 1875 and 1880. Beginning in 1882, wages increased and the actual number of hours decreased slightly. It can be argued that unions had little impact on wages if percentages are compared. ((169.2-100)/100 ))* 100 = 69.2 %; ((172.5-169.2)/169.2)*100= 1.95 %. Between 1860 and 1875 wages rose 69.2 percent, while between 1875 and 1891 wages rose 1.95 %.
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