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Labor History Timeline

Origins of today's union movement

1866   National Labor Union founded
1867   Congress begins reconstruction policy in former slave states
1869   Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor and Colored National Labor Union formed
1870   15th Amendment to the Constitution adopted (the right to vote may not be abrogated by color)
1877   National uprising of railroad workers
1881   Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions organized
1882   First Labor Day parade in New York City
1885   Successful strike by Knights of Labor on the Southwest (or Gould) System
1886   Samuel Gompers becomes the first president of the newly formed American Federation of Labor AFL;
    The Haymarket Affair 
1890   Carpenters President P.J. McGuire and the union strike and win the eight-hour day for 28,000 members

Iron and steel workers union defeated in lockout at Homestead, Pa.;

Integreated general strike in New Orleans succeeds

1894   Boycott of Pullman sleeping cars leads to general strike on railroads  
1895   Supreme Court upholds In re Debs to allow the federal government to use court injunctions against striking unions.  
1898   Erdman Act prohibits discrimination against railroad workers because of union membership and provides for mediation of railway labor disputes  

The Progressive Era

1900   AFL and National Civic Federation promote trade agreements with employers; U.S. Industrial Commission declares trade unions good for democracy
1902   Anthracite strike arbitrated after President Theodore Roosevelt intervenes
1903   Women’s Trade Union League formed at AFL convention
1905   Industrial Workers of the World founded;
Supreme Court rules in Lochner v. New York that a New York state law that limited the number of hours a baker could work to 10 a day and 60 a week to be unconstitutional and a violation of the 14th amendment, which guarantees an individuals’ right to contract one’s labor. The ruling invalidates numerous law and statutes that regulated working conditions.
1908   In Muller v. Oregon , the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an Oregon law limiting the number of hours women could work in a factory or laundry to 10 hours per day. The court agreed with the argument that the “physical well-being of women becomes an object of public interest and care in order to preserve the strength and vigor of the race.”
1909 “Uprising of the 20,000” female shirtwaist makers in New York strike against sweatshop conditions;
    Unorganized immigrant steel workers strike in McKees Rocks, Pa. and win all demands
1911   Fire at the Triangle Waist Company in New York kills nearly 150 workers
1912   23,000 men, women and children participate in the Lawrence Textile Strike, also known as the Bread and Roses Strike;
    Bill creating Department of Labor passes
1913   Woodrow Wilson takes office as president and appoints the first secretary of labor, William B. Wilson of the Mine Workers
1914   Colorado coal miners’ strike results in the Ludlow Massacre of 20 men, women and children;
    Clayton Act is enacted
1917   United States enters World War I
1918   Leadership of Industrial Workers of the World sentenced to federal prison on charges of disloyalty to the United States;
    In Hammer v. Dagenhart , the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Keating-Owen Act of 1916 was unconstitutional, which meant Congress did not have the power to regulate interstate commerce of goods made by children, This decision would be overruled in 1941 in United States v. Darby Lumber Co .
1919   One of every five workers walked out in great strike wave, including national clothing coal and steel strikes, a general strike in Seattle, and a police strike in Boston;
    International Labor Organization founded in France


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