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Why we care about the unions

Amity Paye | 9/26/2012, 1:57 p.m.

At one point in American history, people were expected to worked 60 hours per week, weekends did not exist and children as young as 5 years old were expected to join their parents in the work force.

The labor movements in America started with the industrial revolution as early as the 1790s.

With the rise of industry in America, white factory workers in the 18th century found themselves in competition with slave labor and began calling for a limit on the use of slaves. Later, during the Civil War, whole companies of the northern Union soldiers came right out of the unionized local factories.

"In Brooklyn, the painters' union resolved to fight as a unit against the slave owners' conspiracy," according to "Labors' Untold Story," a book detailing the labor's history of America.

Labor unions have fought with African-Americans on many issues since, including work during the civil rights era.

Unions enabled the standard of living to rise in America to the point that people now expect an eight-hour workday, a two-day weekend and benefits. Political issues like health care and free education were also issues originally introduced by labor unions.

Among various professions, unions include many, and in some cases mainly, African-American people. And unions have also many times been silenced, like their African-American members. The AmNews has started this union page to give voice to one of America's most powerful and historically important groups in an effort to facilitate even more change.