Today, unions have become an endangered species. First organized after the Civil War, their purpose was simple and two-pronged: higher wages and better working conditions. In 1890 in industrialized Chicago, the weekly household wages were a meager $5, or a little more than $125 in today's money. It was nearly impossible to support a family on $5, but it was a buyer's market. As immigrants streamed into the country, they created an almost unlimited labor pool, and they were just one more commodity to buy at the cheapest price.