Working Conditions

external image Child%20labor.jpg Workers during the mid 19th century tried to improve their working conditions. They tried to persuade state legislatures to pass laws setting a maximum workday. New Hampshire in 1847 and Pennsylvania in 1848 passed ten hour workdays, limiting the workday. Unless the workers agreed to an "express contract" calling for more time on the job, but employers would often require employees to sign the contract as a condition of hiring. Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania passed laws regulating child labor, but the success was also minimal because employers persuaded parents to consent for more hours.

Though there were other court cases fighting for the union and laborers, Commonwealth vs Hunt was the first one were the unions external image h2_38.34.jpgactually won. It all started with a man named John Hunt and the Boston Bootmakers Society. The decided to go on strike for higher wages and less hours. They were all arested and charged with conspiriacy. John Hunt decided to go to the supreme court about this and Ruled for the unions in 1842.

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In the case of Commonwealth V. Hunt In 1842 Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a combination of workers to protect their interests by peaceable collective action was not an indictable criminal conspiracy and declared that the strike was a lawful weapon.This legalized the existence of trade organizations legally through anti-trust suits and injunctions. Following this decision other state courts gradually accepted the principles of the Massachusetts decision. However, the union movement of the 1840s and 1850s remained uneffective. Shaw was on shakey ground in terms of legal history but it led the way for unions to become more powerful, help end child labor, and fight for less hours and higher wages.This was an important case occurring in the beginning of the Industrial Revolution when it appeared that workers might not have very many rights to protect their own interests. Following this case unions grew rapidly throughout the country.