Labor Unions – What’s Bedford Thinking?

September 1, 2023

Labor Day is this Monday. It’s a three-day weekend that signifies the unofficial end of the summer. But beyond the cookouts and the getaways it celebrates the labor movement in this country.

A Little History from the Library of Congress:

The National Labor Union was founded on Aug. 20, 1866, in Baltimore, Maryland. It was the first attempt to create a national labor group in the United States and one of their first actions was the first national call for Congress to mandate an 8-hour work day.

In early 1866, William Harding, who was then president of the Coachmakers’ International Union, met with William H. Sylvis, president of the Ironmoulders’ International Union and Jonathan Fincher, head of the Machinists and Blacksmiths Union. At that meeting, they called for a formal meeting to be held Aug. 20-24, 1866, in Baltimore, Maryland. On the first day of that meeting, the National Labor Union was born. Also on that first day, various committees were created to study different issues—one of which was focused on the eight-hour system.

The AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations, is the largest federation of unions in the United States. It is made up of 60 national and international unions, together representing more than 12 million active and retired workers. 

Massachusetts ranks 14th in the country with labor unions representing 413,000 workers, or 12.7 percent of the population of workers. Hawaii has the highest participation with 21.9 percent of workers being union members. South Carolina is the lowest with 1.7 percent representing 35,000 workers.

In Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, part of the National Education Association,  is the largest union representing 110,000 workers. The next biggest is the SEIU, Service Employees International Union, representing 91,300 members.

Labor vs. Management has a violent past in this country dating back to 1874 with a strike of mine workers in Pennsylvania. 

Here’s a history of some of those labor battles from PBS: Labor Wars in the U.S. – The American Experience on PBS.

So what’s Bedford Thinking? Are you or have you ever been a member of a Union?

  • No (58%, 94 Votes)
  • Yes (42%, 67 Votes)

Total Voters: 161

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