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If you were a skilled worker in the 19th century, you were probably part of a labor union. Basically, a labor union is an organization workers could join for a fee, and in exchange, they would (in theory) get protection from the union against their employers lowering their wages, firing them for no reason, or from bad working conditions.
One of the first strikes ever recorded happened in 1768 in New York when workers started protesting against getting their salaries cut.
Suddenly, everyone saw the power of collective bargaining, and people started demanding things like better salaries and less working hours per day. For skilled workers, unions could perform miracles.
Employers obviously weren’t exactly happy with these strikes, higher wages, and better working conditions. So to fight back, they needed to find ways to put an end to the strikes.
But as we all know, the only way to fight fire, is with fire!
Mafia controlled labor unions would soon become one of their most powerful, influential weapons.
When the unions came knocking at the mafia’s door for help, the mobsters saw an opportunity of a lifetime. The two things any good mafioso wants most in his life is money and power, and by joining the unions they could get both.
The mafia took over so many unions that at one point, La Cosa Nostra had unions in every major city in the US.
Unions gave the mafia a chance to expand, get richer, and spread their influence like never before. At one point, you couldn’t even tell the difference between unions and the mob.
Like all good things, the marriage between the mafia and labor unions eventually had to come to an end. What had seemed like an unbreakable partnership was left in pieces.
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