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Unions and the Modern Workplace

Many of the social classes in the early American colonies were based on the same ideas that existed in England. Your class was based on your bloodline and money. But, there was a new idea that your class could be based on merit. Work hard and drive to be on the top, and you can make it happen. That mentality did not exist in England but was starting to take form in America. In today’s working society there still seems to exist a mentality that if you have the right name or enough money you can climb to the top a little easier, but there is still room for those who can work hard and have the drive to succeed. Today, labor laws provide a basis for workers' protection and ability to stand against any sort of discrimination. However, legal framework was not formed over the night, it took over two centuries to arrive we the United States is now. Where do our management and leadership practices stem from and how did the labor movement and labor laws affect and shape the America we know today? During the age of industrialization and development and expansion of the western world in the United States, workers started demanding more recognition and better conditions. Unions of various forms were starting to appear across the United States because workers felt the need to band together and unite in their vision for a favorable working future. More and more occurrences of violence and arrests due to strikes were happening because of unhappy workers. Lumen | US History II (2018) states: The degrading conditions of industrial labor sparked strikes across the country. The final two decades of the nineteenth century saw over 20,000 strikes and lockouts in the United States. Industrial laborers struggled to carve for themselves a piece of the prosperity lifting investors and a rapidly expanding middle class into unprecedented standards of living. But workers were not the only ones struggling to stay afloat in industrial America. Americans farmers also lashed out against the inequalities of the Gilded Age and denounced political corruption for enabling economic theft. (para. 10) U.S. History (n.d.) adds to this idea by stating: Owners had strategies of their own. If a company found itself with a high inventory, the boss might afford to enact a lockout, which is a reverse strike. In this case, the owner tells the employees not to bother showing up until they agree to a pay cut. Sometimes when a new worker was hired the employee was forced to sign a YELLOW-DOG CONTRACT, or an ironclad oath swearing that the employee would never join a union. Strikes could be countered in a variety of ways. The first measure was usually to hire strikebreakers, or SCABS, to take the place of the regular labor force. Here things often turned violent. The crowded cities always seemed to have someone hopeless enough to ‘CROSS THE PICKET LINE’ during a strike. The striking workers often responded with fists, occasionally even leading to death. (para. 9-10) Because of the high number of strikes and lockouts, state and federal governments needed to be involved. U.S. History (n.d.) states : Prior to the 20th century the government never sided with the union in a labor dispute. Bosses persuaded the courts to issue injunctions to declare a strike illegal. If the strike continued, the participants would be thrown into prison. When all these efforts failed to break a strike, the government at all levels would be willing to send a militia to regulate as in the case of the Great Upheaval. What was at stake? Each side felt they were fighting literally for survival. The owners felt if they could not keep costs down to beat the competition, they would be forced to close the factory altogether. They said they could not meet the workers' unreasonable demands. What were the employees demanding? In the entire history of labor strife, most goals of labor can be reduced to two overarching issues: higher wages and better working conditions. In the beginning, management would have the upper hand. But the sheer numbers of the American workforce was gaining momentum as the century neared its conclusion. (para. 11-13) Today, both state and federal governments are involved with labor conflicts. The list below represents just three roles of state and federal governments in labor conflicts for example. The federal government is connected to labor unions since most labor unions are aligned with a political party. State agencies such as workforce commissions ensure that the rights of laborers are protected. The federal government establishes the minimum wage and prosecutes employers who violate it. History provides models that are still in place today. Three ways that 18th-century class/societal stereotypes have evolved into current management and leadership practices can be found in gentry, middling, and farmers. Gentry were the upper class of landowners. This class can be compared to the business owners of today. As landowners and now current day business owners, they see it as their duty to govern and direct others. The middling, or what we might call the middle class, were the tradesmen. They had a specific skill and could perform it well for good pay. In today's society, the middling would be likened to the skilled workers such as teachers and medical professionals. Finally, the farmers were the unskilled workers who did the manual labor. These people too are found in today's society as the working class. With minimal skills, they are subject to doing any job they can find. The gentry and today's business owners represent those in management while the middling and farmers were led by them. How does this affect your career? It is important to note that "U.S. labor history shows that the most important achievements unions have gained for working people have been achieved peacefully. Historic accomplishments like the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which outlawed child labor and created the 40-hour work week, came after the age of industrial violence ended" (Green, 1997). With this information, it encourages employees to plead their case where labor disputes are concerned in a manner that speaks of professionalism. References Green, J. (1997). Why Teach Labor History? OAH Magazine of History,11(2), 5-8. doi:10.1093/maghis/11.2.5 Lumen | US History II (American Yawp). (2018). The Labor Movement . Retrieved https://courses.lumenlearning.com/ushistory2ay/chapter/the-labor-movement-2/ (Links to an external site.) U.S. History (n.d.) Labor vs. Management. Retrieved from http://www.ushistory.org/us/37b.asp (Links to an external site.) Prompt Research general labor unions and think about how they affected laws, politics, and helped bring about change. Then research unions in your own career field. In a 600 word minimum paper, with at least two sources, answer the following questions: Discuss labor union regulations in your state and the role of your state government in labor conflicts. Consider where you want to work. Discuss three ways that 18th-century class/societal stereotypes are found in the current management and leadership practices.
Many of the social classes in the early American colonies were based on the same ideas that existed in England. Your class was based on your bloodline and money. But, there was a new idea that your class could be based on merit. Work hard and drive to be on the top, and you can make it happen.
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