Labor Movement Timeline
Timeline Description: The labor movement in the United States changed the lives of workers throughout the country. Over time, the labor movement led to the adaptation of a 40-hour workweek, safety standards for workers and much more.

Date Event
1866 National Labor Union Founded

The National Labor Union was a relatively short-lived labor organization, but it did begin the labor movement in the U.S. This was the first national organization, but at the time of its creation, some 200,000 local labor unions already existed.
July 14, 1877 Uprising of Railroad Workers

The uprising of railroad workers began in Martinsburg, West Virginia in July 1877. Railway workers looted train depots, disrupted train travel, and much more. This was not an organized strike, but individual uprisings of workers.
1881 Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions Formed

The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions was formed in 1881. Eventually, this organization of a number of smaller labor unions formed the American Federation of Labor or AFL.
1885 Successful Strike by Knights of Labor on the Southwest

The Knights of Labor railroad strike involved more than 200,000 members, striking against both the Missouri Pacific and Union Pacific railways.
1886 American Federation of Labor Founded

In 1886, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions became the American Federation of Labor or AFL.
1890 Carpenters' Strike Leads to First Eight-Hour Workday

The Philadelphia Carpenters' Union went on strike in 1890. The 28,000-man union strike was effective, leading to a guarantee of an eight-hour workday.
1892 Union Defeated Homestead, PA

The 1892 steel workers' strike in Homestead, PA led to an outbreak of significant violence. The plant was already unionized, but the plant owner attempted to break the union. The owner, Carnegie, brought in Pinkerton agents, and gunfire erupted. The strike failed, and the plant was no longer unionized.
May 11, 1894 Railroad Strike

On May 11, 1894, the Pullman Strike pitted the American Railway Union against the Pullman Company. This disrupted rail travel significantly, leading to federal government intervention.
1900 Support for Unions

By 1900, support for unions had grown significantly. The United States' Trade Commission declared unions good for business.
1903 Women's Trade Union League

In 1903, the Women's Trade Union League formed. Previously, all unions were male-only.
March 25, 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City killed some 146 garment workers, mostly women. This tragedy drew significant attention to the lot of garment workers in the city.
1912 Bread and Roses Strike

After wages were cut at textile mills in Lawrence, MA, workers went on strike. Women played a key role in the strike.
1934 Upsurge in Strikes

In 1934, there was a distinct upsurge in labor activity. This followed the introduction of Roosevelt's New Deal and the progressive, but small, improvements in the economy.
1935 Committee for Industrial Organization Formed

The Committee for Industrial Organization, a part of the American Federation of Labor, was formed in 1935, creating the AFL-CIO as we know it today.
1938 Fair Labor Standards Act

The 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act was a key piece of federal legislation, creating regulations about worker safety, working hours and fair wages.