Workers are the backbone of the American economy, as in all nations, but their rights regarding wages, working hours, working conditions, and more, have not always been guaranteed. These rights evolved over time, with the advent of organized labor, and large-scale factors such as world wars and the effects of the Great Depression.
As the burgeoning country was constructed, those workers soon rallied together and formed organizations such as the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen—now part of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters—which ushered in the era of the union. By the early 1900s, strikes and labor unrest grew larger and more violent. WWI interrupted labor around the world, resulting in women entering the workforce for the first time, occupying roles traditionally held by men. The roaring 1920s saw a decline in union participation, which continued throughout the Great Depression of the 1930s, as many union members could not afford to pay their dues. That all changed, however, with the enactment of the National Industrial Recovery Act, which finally gave workers the right to organize into unions.
These volumes explore the development of workers’ rights in the United States from the country’s founding to present. Documents examined include charters, constitutions, legislative debates, political speeches, historical accounts, court cases, disputes between unions and governments, and more.
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