Nashville Trades and Labor Council

The Nashville Trades and Labor Council, organized in 1890, was most responsible for the passage of the Tennessee child labor law and the local barber's Sunday closing law. Composed of three delegates from the different unions in Nashville, the Council exerted great influence throughout the state for labor's benefit. As late as 1889-90 only three or four labor unions, including the Typographical Union and Molders' Union, existed in Nashville. Unionization increased, however, when the Nashville Evening Herald fired all its union printers and hired nonunion workers to replace them. This stimulated the typesetters union to call a meeting of all unions in Nashville to meet at the old Olympic Theater and form a primary labor organization. By August 24, 1890, the Central Labor Union, later to be called the Trades and Labor Council, was formed and took out a charter with the American Federation Labor. The Council likewise issued a newspaper, the Journal of Labor.

The aims of the Nashville Trades and Labor Council illustrated the growing class consciousness among workers in Tennessee cities in the late nineteenth century. Among their objectives were higher wages, shorter work days and “absolute Sunday rest,” and the elimination of hiring children under fifteen by instituting compulsory school attendance. Additionally, the Council was instrumental in having several municipalities pass ordinances to protect labor. The Council claimed its guidance helped employers by cutting down on strikes and lockouts, and the Council's conservative approach allowed reason to prevail.

Suggested Reading

Perry C. Cotham, Toil, Turmoil, and Triumph: A Portrait of the Tennessee Labor Movement (1996)

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Nashville Trades and Labor Council
  • Author
  • Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
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  • Access Date June 17, 2024
  • Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2018