Most of the immigrants who poured
into the US lacked money and
education. They remained in the
nations growing cities, where they
toiled long hours for little pay. Despite
the harshness of their new lives most
still improved their standard of living.
In the US they had a chance at social
mobility—moving up in society-unlike
• Working conditions were dangerous,
monotonous, repetitive, unsafe, unhealthy,
with long hours, and with little pay.
• Labor tried to fight against such condition
with little success—fear of …
The Struggle of Organized Labor
• With a surplus of cheap labor, management
held most of the power in its struggles with
• Strikers could be replaced
• Employers also used many tactics for
defeating unions: the lockout, blacklists,
yellow dog contracts, calling in private guards
or state militia, obtaining court injunctions
• Management fostered public fear of unions as
anarchistic and un-American
• National Labor Union 1866-1st labor union—
excluded women—fell apart after depression
of 1873• Molly Maguires—militant labor union—
sometimes used terrorist tactics.
• Both were unsuccessful but they provided a
template of action for more successful
The Knights of Labor-1869 (1877)
• Open to “all who toiled” (except
lawyers, bankers, liquor dealers, and
• very inclusive—welcomed women and blacks
• Fought for an 8 hour day
• Abolition of child labor
• Membership peaked at 700,000-after a few
strikes membership dropped
• Terrance Powderly
American Federation of Labor
• Very exclusive—associated with skilled
workers, led by Samuel Gompers.
• Worked for better wages, hours and working
• Worked for collective bargaining—but not rule
• No women
Sources of labor Weakness
• Some gains by labor but forces were against them
• Only 4% in unions
• AFL excluded unskilled, blacks and recent
• Tensions between ethnic and racial groups
• Shifting nature of workers
• Most importantly-wealth and power against
The Great Railroad Strike-1877
• Eastern railroads announced a 10% wage cut.
Rail service was disrupted between Baltimore
to St. Louis, equipment was destroyed, and
rioting in the streets of Pittsburgh. President
Hayes sent in troops –11 demonstrators died
and 40 wounded. Over 100 died before the
strike fell apart.
• 1st major national strike, illustrated disputes
no longer local with a national economy
Haymarket Square Riot-1886
• Strikers and labor leaders were called to a protest
meeting in Chicago at Haymarket Square --when
police ordered the crowd to disperse someone
threw a bomb-it killed 7 officers and injured 67
more. Chicago officials rounded up 8 anarchists
and charged them with murder—all found guilty
and 7 were sentenced to death.
• Middle class America now associated anarchism
with unions and strikers
The Homestead Strike-1892
• Homestead was one of Carnegie’s steel plants
• Strike called by the Amalgamated Association
of Iron, Steel, and Tin workers—most
powerful trade union in the country—why?
• Steel industry was introducing new methods
and reducing need for skilled labor
• Cut wages
• The plant was shut down by Carnegie’s heavy
man Henry Frick and he called 300 of
Pinkerton’s men to protect the strikebreakers.
• Read p. 618
The Pullman Strike-1894
• http://youtu.be/yOgATGaTSrM-• CBS on its legacy
• In the end, what all these strikes illustrated
was that government would always intervene
on the side of management. Not until the
1930’s will Unions gain the federal support
that it would need.
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