Assess the view that the 1890s were the most important turning point in the development of trade union and labour rights in the USA in the period 1865 to 1992
Trade unions wanted to achieve three main rights including the right to exist and collective bargain, right to strike and to improve workers’ rights. Although trade unions achieved most of their rights in the 1930s, their peak and most powerful period was in the 50s and 60s. The 1890s was the time trade unions begun to develop and start to threaten the power of the ‘robber barons’ with powerful strikes.
Trade unions wanted the right to exist and collectively bargain with the employer. This was the process where a group of employees formed a unit and bargained with the employer to better their rights. In the 1890s, union membership was steadily growing reaching a membership of just under a thousand by 1900s. This shows that Unions were slowly becoming recognised as membership grew, meaning that employers were under more obligation to accept them. With the creation of the first Industrial Union in 1893, the American Railroad Union, it meant that some unskilled workers could be organised and recognised. This was important as previously mainly craft unions only accepted skilled workers like the American Labour Federation (1874). However, the ARU set a precedent that other industrial unions could do the same, making unions more powerful. However, there were some negatives in this period, lessening the 1890s impact as a turning point. For example, the Homestead strike in 1894 emphasised that industrial employees were not recognised by their employers. The steel industry as a result remained deunionised for the next 40 years. Additionally, the Pullman Strike in 1894 highlighted the employers’ power and dismissal of trade unions as George Pullman refused to discuss arbitration procedures. These strikes proved that unions were not fully recognised and therefore undermined the 1890s impact, making it less of a...