Derek you have swallowed bad history from your childhood, at no point were the unions responsible for better working conditions. all "a lot of workers encountered awful and dangerous conditions on the job" increases of safety were under taken by private business before the unions woke up. i.e. Ford and US Steel, remember true free markets depend on both employer and employee freedom of movement. At the 1890's to date unions are gangs and always lawless except when a government illegal actions legal like strikes and blocking business.