The history of labor unions is the history of America.

For over a century, unions in the United States have fought to secure safe working conditions, fair pay and sustainable hours for American workers. Learn more about how organized labor’s efforts have shaped the past, present and future of work in America.

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…

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What was the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931?

The Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 refers to a United States law that regulates pay for workers when working on federally funded or assisted contracts. The law states that, for any contracts over $2,000 involving construction, alteration or repair of public buildings or projects, contractors and subcontractors must be paid the local prevailing wage. This was…

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What was the first labor union?

The labor movement in the United States began with a number of loosely connected organizations. Furniture, textile, clothing, carpentry and a variety of other workers created grassroots groups to defend their members from employers that threatened to continue unsafe work conditions, decrease wages or extend working hours. Records show that The Federal Society of Journeymen…

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What is a labor union?

A labor union (also called a trade union) is an organization of workers that is formed to advocate for their collective interests, including wages, hours and working conditions. In a union, democratically elected individuals represent all workers in negotiations with management, making sure that bosses and builders understand the rigors their workers are faced with….

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