The Good Fight Over 200 Years in the Making
The unions and the struggles of the late 18th century and the early 19th century brought about positive changes that are still being used today. Flippelli states, “in 1848, Pennsylvania’s child labor law established the age of 12 as the minimum age for workers in commercial occupations.” The age law, along with the hours worked, caused several states to regulate hours worked. In particular, the New Hampshire Legislature regulated the hours of labor to ten hours per day as stated in the article “Hours of Labor” published in the Scientific American. This law was a starting point for the child laws that have evolved into the laws we have today. This period of time had unions fighting for and winning better working conditions, more wages, shorter work days and weeks, and better treatment of women and children. In the mid- to late 19th century, there was an erosion of the union movement followed by the golden era of labor unions during the beginning of the 20th century until about 1970. All of these things are the backbone for the union’s great advancements in the 20th century, such as 40-hour work weeks, lunch and breaks, paid holidays, paid sick time, paid vacations, and the medical and life benefits that most Americans take for granted today. The next big union movement will have to appear soon if the 21st century union labor movement is to survive the latest push by management to erase all the progress that unions have made in the 200 plus years since the industrialization of America.