When and why did the first labor unions form?

Labor unions began as a way to protect workers, their interests and their livelihoods. While the first union in the United States was formed in 1794 (The Federal Society of Journeymen Cordwainers—which is an old, fancy name for shoemakers), the labor movement in America began to take root with the first recorded strike, organized in New York as a response to reduced wages, in 1768.

Following suit, other workers started coming together to form unions in an effort to protect their trade against cheaper, unskilled labor. The creation of the Mechanics’ Union of Trade Associations would provide a blueprint of trade-based organization for future workers.

In Minnesota, labor issues came to the forefront in 1854 as journeymen tailors in St. Paul organized a strike for fair wages. However, it wasn’t until two years later that journeymen in the printing trade would band together to form Union No. 30 and be accepted into the National Typographical Union in 1858.

Take a look at these examples of how labor organizations in Minnesota have grown into a thriving union legacy.