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Organized Labor Since the 19th Century: A Research Guide

This guide offers resources on the history of organized labor and labor unions in the United States.


Textile factory with two women at machines. ca. 1910. George Grantham Bain Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

This guide is focused on organized labor in the United States beginning in the 19th century. We have included resources that cover the general history of organized labor, books looking at working Americans, some specific unions, and some biographical sources.

This guide cannot cover the history of all unions. We have included some of the larger unions in some industries and when necessary, will add to this guide in the future. We have done our best to roughly organize the guide in a way that makes sense, but given the history and changing nature of some of the individual unions, the organization is not exact. Additionally, what history has been included is highly abbreviated and includes some dates and names that should be helpful for those who need more than what this guide includes.

So as to not overwhelm this guide, we are not able to focus on local unions and are not delving deeply into any connections unions or their leaders may have to communist activities, socialism, or organized crime so we are primarily covering activities of unions or their leaders as they relate to business. However, a few things have been included because of their importance to particular situations and people.

While this guide is very historical, unions are still active. If you are interested in labor and union activity today, we have included links to many unions, and for anyone researching more current union activities, news sources are going to be essential.

About the Business Section

Part of the Science & Business Reading Room at the Library of Congress, the Business Section is the starting point for conducting research at the Library of Congress in the subject areas of business and economics. Here, reference specialists in specific subject areas of business assist patrons in formulating search strategies and gaining access to the information and materials contained in the Library's rich collections of business and economics materials.