Workers Organize 1790

Skilled workers in 19th-century America fiercely protected their work rules, knowledge, and traditions. As the nation industrialized, these groups found it difficult to protect their standing. Technological change, immigration, new forms of factory organization, and hostile employer strategies reduced workers’ wages and independence, and working conditions worsened. Clashes between workers and employers became more common and violent. Alarmed by this unrest, government, both state and Federal, sought ways to solve the “labor problem,” from experimenting with new forms of arbitration to armed confrontations.