Industrialization and labor 1860 1900
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Industrialization and Labor 1860-1900. The profits of the Post-Bellum Industrial Revolution went to a small elite of businessmen The gap between rich and poor was widening, as the wealth was being concentrated in the hands of a few.

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Industrialization and Labor 1860-1900

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Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

Industrialization and Labor1860-1900


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • The profits of the Post-Bellum Industrial Revolution went to a small elite of businessmen

  • The gap between rich and poor was widening, as the wealth was being concentrated in the hands of a few.

  • It was estimated that 88% of the nation's assets were controlled by 1% of the families of the US.

  • Millions of families lived in poverty, below the commonly accepted breadline ($600 a year?)


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • People lived in over-crowded, unsanitary conditions in the inner cities……tenements (architect Louis Sullivan – dumbbell tenements)

  • Working Conditions

    • Tedious work on the assembly lines

    • Unsafe conditions in mines, railroads, factories (Triangle Shirtwaiste Fire, NY, 148 killed, mostly immigrant women, 1911)

    • Low wages: average salary was approx $50 a mth

    • Long Hours; 10-12 hour days, 6 days a week

    • No job security …no insurance / compensation for workers injured on the job

    • Abuse of Child Labor (1.7m under 16 yrs employed in factories in 1890s) – lower pay

    • Advantage taken of Women’s Labor…paid them less


Labor unions

Labor Unions

  • “In Unity There Is Strength” principle: Leverage

  • Principle of “Collective Bargaining”

  • Union strategies if Collective Bargaining fails: work stoppages, go-slow, work-to-rule…..strike


Unions and strikes

Unions and Strikes

  • Unions / Federations and Leaders

  • 1. National Labor Union, Sylvis

  • 2. Knights of Labor, Stephens, Powderly

  • 3. American Federation of Labor (AFL), Gompers

  • 4. Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), Haywood

  • 5. American Railway Union, Debs

  • Strikes

  • 1. National Railroad Strike

  • 2. McCormick Harvester Strike

  • 3. Homestead Strike

  • 4. Pullman Strike


Labor tries to organize the national labor union

Labor Tries to Organize:The National Labor Union

  • Before the Civil War there were unions of skilled workers, but none really for the unskilled

  • But even skilled unions were few, small, and badly organized, with little influence

  • The first attempt at union organization in the Post Bellum years was made by William Sylvis who founded the National Labor Union, in 1866


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • It was a federation of existing unions, welcoming unions of skilled and unskilled workers

  • It claimed at its peak to have a membership of 640,000

  • In its program – which included industrial reform and wider social, economic, political reform - it demanded the

    • elimination of monopoly in industry,

    • creation of a federal dept of labor,

    • abolition of contract labor,

    • Govt. arbitration of labor conflicts, and

    • eight hour workdays in factories.


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • It also advocated reforms to prevent alcohol abuse, flaws in the prison system, and political rights for women

  • The leaders of the Union turned to politics to further their organization's objectives, entering the political field as sponsors of the National Labor Reform party.

  • In the presidential election of 1872 the party made a notably poor showing, contributing significantly to the rapid dissolution of the National Labor Union.

  • After the Panic of 1873 the Union finally disintegrated


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • Critics say the Union over-extended itself.. would have been better off just confining itself to industrial issues

  • Goals were noble but too wide ranging, became distracted / side-tracked from industrial issues


The knights of labor

The Knights of Labor

  • Another attempt to create a genuinely national labor organization was the founding in 1869 of the Noble Order of the Knights of Labor (Knights), under the leadership of Uriah Stephens.

  • It was not a Federation of pre-existing unions, but a Union in its own right, directly recruiting workers (not unions) .


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • Membership was open to all workers, skilled or unskilled, men or women, “except for lawyers, bankers, liquor dealers, and professional gamblers”.

  • It was poorly organized and led: there were local chapters, but little if any regional or national structure or coordination


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

It’s industrial demands included:

  • - an 8 hr workday

  • - the abolition of child labor

  • - the prohibition of contract labor

  • - govt. arbitration of labor disputes

  • - safety and sanitary codes for industry

  • - laws compelling employers to pay workers on a weekly basis


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • It had a program also for wider changes in society, advocating

    - the creation of cooperatives

    - the imposition of an income tax

    - government ownership / nationalization of railroad and telegraph lines (Socialistic)


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • At first it was a secret organization, and did not engage in any public activities.

  • But in the 1870's it became an open Union under the leadership of Terence Powderly, during which it expanded to a membership of over 700,000 and had 5,892 local chapters.

  • However, there was division between moderates and militants within the union: the militant elements, against the wishes of Powderly, helped launch a series of strikes in 1885 and 1886 to demand the 8hr workday


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • Eventually the Knights would collapse because of

    • the hostility of skilled workers toward an organization that they felt minimized their interests

    • the failure of most of the producers cooperatives in which the Knights of Labor had invested funds.

    • division among the leaders about whether to focus on industrial goals or with the idealistic, long term, social reform measures.

    • its association with the Haymarket Square events (later) - the growing public belief that many members favored the use of violence in industrial disputes


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • By 1890 the membership of the Knights had shrunk to 100,000. A few years later, the org. disappeared altogether.


The american federation of labor afl

The American Federation of LaborAFL

  • In 1881, representatives of a number of craft / skilled unions, formed the Federation of Organized Trade and Labor Unions of the US and Canada.

  • Five yrs later it took a new name - the American Federation of Labor (AFL).

  • Under the direction of its president and guiding spirit, Samuel Gompers, the Federation soon became the most important / powerful labor group in the country


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • Like the National Labor Union, it was a Federation of existing unions, a co-coordinating body, linking unions throughout the nation

  • Unlike the National Labor Union and Knights it was confined to skilled labor only, excluded unskilled workers, and also women, immigrants, and minorities – felt it had more leverage that way

  • Was considered elitist


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • Also, unlike the other two, it focused exclusively on industrial reform / “bread and butter” issues; improvements in wages, hours, working conditions: by collective bargaining, or if necessary, resorting to strikes, and encouraged public boycott

  • It steered clear of political involvement or activity, and did not demand wider changes in politics and society (cooperatives, nationalization, redistribution of resources etc)….learned from the mistakes of previous labor groups


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • Gompers accepted the basic concept of capitalism. The purpose of the AFL, he said, was simply to secure for labor a greater share of capitalism's material rewards.

  • He opposed Socialist solutions

  • Membership increased from

    • 190,000 in 1890, to

    • 550,000 in 1900, to more than

    • 2 million in 1915.


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • It's achievements included;

    • many businesses accepted the principle of collective bargaining by the AFL

    • sickness and unemployment benefits for many of its workers

    • the 8 hr workday in several trades.


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

The Industrial Workers of the World. (IWW) (Wobblies)

  • Formed in 1905 by radical unionists and militant socialists

  • It's most prominent leader was William Haywood.

  • It sought to bring all workers of the nation into a single union…….idealistic, ambitious

  • It’s stated goal was “to overthrow the capitalist system and establish in its place a socialist one”.


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • It advocated direct action - mass strikes and sabotage.

  • It appealed chiefly to migratory laborers in the lumber camps, mines, and harvest fields of the far West.

  • Various states took action against it because of its radical views and actions and in 1918 the federal govt. imprisoned its most influential leaders for their active opposition to US entry into WW1….Haywood managed to escape…fled to Russia


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • By the mid 1920's membership, which at its height numbered only 60,000, had decreased to a few hundred, and the Union disbanded.


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • American Railway Union

  • Set up in 1893, in Chicago, to combine skilled and unskilled workers in the RR industry

  • Led by Eugene V. Debs

  • At first a moderate leader / moderate union

  • Imprisoned because he refused to accept a court injunction against the Pullman strike, he was converted to socialism, and joined the Socialist Party; ran for the Presidency 5 times…won 1m votes in 1912…..as a Socialist candidate


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

Important Strikes


Railroad strike of 1877

Railroad Strike of 1877

  • started when 4 of the principal Eastern railroad companies, due to the depression of 1873, announced a 10% cut in wages

  • RR workers, both unionized and non unionized, went out on strike…..became a nationwide strike

  • Strikes turned violent – use of strikebreakers, riots, destruction of RR equipment: esp. in Pittsburgh


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • State militias were called out against the strikers; then Pres. Grant agreed to a request by the Gov. of West Virginia and ordered federal troops to suppress the disorders there.

  • In violent clashes between the militia / federal troops and workers, 11 men were killed and 40 wounded in Baltimore

  • In Philadelphia, 20 workers were killed by police and troops


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • In total, 100 workers were killed before the strike ended.

  • Unions / workers were forced to end the strike and go back to work under the new salary

  • The Great RR strike was America’s first major Post-Bellum labor conflict.

  • It exposed the serious weaknesses of the labor movement – it was badly organized and led: and now suffered from a further setback because of the association with the violence


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • McCormick Harvester Strike and the Haymarket Square Events.

  • workers at the McCormick Harvester Company in Chicago, went on strike in 1886, demanding an 8hr workday.

  • Police tried to break up the pickets, and in the process 4 of the workers were shot dead

  • A meeting / demonstration to protest police action took place in Haymarket Square, in downtown Chicago, organized by local unions and political groups


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • Police demanded that the meeting disperse – a bomb was thrown into a group of policemen – killing seven of them.

  • The police, in retaliation, fired into the crowd, killing 4.

  • In the hysteria that followed, 8 anarchists were arrested and charged with murder of the policemen. Without any direct evidence all were found guilty. (scapegoats – authorities sending a message…)

  • One received a prison sentence and the other 7 were sentenced to death. One of these committed suicide, four were executed, and two had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • Later, Gov. Altgeld would pardon the convicted men (only two survivors at that stage)

  • Neither AFL or the Knights leadership had organized the strike or the protest meeting but because workers associated with each were involved, they were saddled with much of the blame for the episode.

  • The Knights in particular never recovered from the widespread media vilification they encountered in the aftermath of the bombing.

  • The AFL was weakened, but recovered, survived, and grew stronger


Homestead strike 1892

Homestead Strike, 1892

  • Carnegie at first recognized his workers’ right to unionize, and the principle of collective bargaining

  • The Amalgamated Assoc of Iron and Steel Workers, which was affiliated to the AFL, was the most powerful union that his workers were members of.

  • To cut costs, and keep wages down, Carnegie withdrew recognition from most of the unions to bargain collectively


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • By 1892, he recognized unions in only 3 of his steel mills, and planned on ending that when the contracts with the unions/workers expired that year; and planned on introducing a wage reduction

  • The biggest opposition to non recognition and wage reduction came in the Homestead Plant in Pittsburgh.

  • As the contracts came to an end, and trouble loomed, Carnegie set off for a vacation in Scotland, and left his General Manager, Henry Frick, in charge of dealing with the Union and the angry workers


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • Carnegie’s message to Frick when leaving for Scotland was, according to Frick, to “do whatever it takes to break the union”.

  • The union called its men out on strike. Frick abruptly shut down the plant, closed it off with barbed wire (Fort Frick), and sent for 300 security guards from the Pinkerton Detective Agency to guard it while he began to hire non union labor (strike-breakers / scabs) to break the strike.

  • Frick hoped to bring the Pinkertons in secretly by night up the river on barges. But the workers were alerted and lay in wait for the armed Pinkertons with guns and dynamite and a battle broke out on the morning of July 6, 1892.


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • After several hrs of fighting, the Pinkertons gave in after their barges were set on fire.

  • A total of 35 men were killed (on both sides), and 60 wounded. The Pinkertons were forced to march through a gauntlet of workers and their wives and children on their way out of the town.

  • Afterwards, the company and local law officials asked for assistance / protection from the state “militia”. The governor responded by sending the state's entire National Guard of 8,000 men to Homestead.

  • Public opinion, at first sympathetic to the strikers, turned against them when news of the violence spread in the Media, and after an attempt was made to assassinate Frick.


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • Production resumed with strikebreakers, now protected by state troops. Slowly workers drifted back to their jobs under the new terms (lower wages, no unionization); four months after the strike began, the Union gave in and withdrew.

  • On returning home Carnegie publicly said that he was appalled at how the workers were treated, that he never intended any thing like this to happen

  • Yet privately he was pleased the Union was broken and he never again agreed to Union recognition

  • Frick felt betrayed by him and the two were never again close – later Frick resigned


Pullman strike 1894

Pullman Strike, 1894

  • George Pullman’s Palace Car Company constructed sleeping and parlor cars, that were leased to RR companies

  • Beside the Company’s plant in Chicago, he build a town (Hyde Park) and rented houses and apartments to his employees.

  • He was proud of his “model town” – it saved the workers from commuting, it was safe, clean, healthy….  


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • However, rents were high, salaries were paid in part through vouchers to the company store (where goods were more expensive), attendance at the Universal Church was mandatory, alcohol was banned, workers living there could not join political groups…….restrictions on Civil liberties

  • Many of the workers were members of the Debs’ Am Railway Union

  • In 1893, due to lost revenues during the recession of that year, Pullman decided to cut wages by an average of 25%. (no change in rent – rent remained high)


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • The Pullman ARU workers went on strike, and ARU workers throughout the country also supported the strike, refusing to work on trains carrying Pullman Cars

  • The strike affected 60,000 workers and RR companies in 27 states, paralyzing much of the country’s RR system

  • The AFL did not support the strike

  • Gov. Altgeld of Illinois refused to call out the state militia against the striking workers


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • The RR owners appealed directly to Pres. Cleveland to send federal troops to subdue the strikers.

  • Attorney General Richard Olney, who was very anti-labor, convinced Cleveland to intervene on the grounds that the federal mail system was affected

  • In July 1894 the president, over Altgeld’s objections, ordered 2,000 federal troops to the Chicago area, and later, more to other states

  • 30 workers were killed in clashes with the troops


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • At Olney's suggestion, a court injunction was issued preventing the Union from interfering with the delivery of the mail: it basically made it illegal for the Union to continue with the strike (first ever injunction against a labor strike)

  • Because he ignored the injunction, Debs was arrested, and sentenced to 6 months in prison. (left as a Socialist)

  • Without his leadership, and due to the repression by the federal troops, and the hiring of new workers to break the strike, the strike quickly collapsed.

  • Majority of workers went back under the new terms: but 200 union leaders were blacklisted


Industrialization and labor 1860 1900

  • The violence associated with the strike and the media’s portrayal of events further discredited the labor movement in the eyes of the public

  • The episode left a bitter feeling among labor / unions – they felt that the government should be a neutral arbiter, mediating between both sides, not a supporter of the interests of one side – the gov, and courts should not be in alliance with big business


Union progress

Union Progress?

  • In the last decades of 19 Century, labor, in spite of becoming better organized, made few gains.

    • Wages rose slightly (but did not keep up with cost of living), mostly for skilled workers

    • Some skilled workers had an 8 hr day, and insurance against accidents and unemployment

    • Some laws were passed to improve safety standards, but most of these were never enforced

    • Some laws were passed limiting the number of consecutive hours of work on the RR, and limiting the workday of women (Muller v Oregon, 1908, Supreme Court supported 10 hr work day for women in Oregon)….(not always enforced)

    • More recognition of the right to Collective Bargaining


Why so few gains

Why so few gains?

  • 1. Too few workers joined: Labor unions never succeeded in organizing more than a small percentage of the industrial work force; only about 4% of all US workers were union members in 1900

    • Workers did not appreciate the importance of organization

    • Workers were difficult to organize because of the shifting nature of the workforce: workers moved a lot

    • Birds of Passage (temporary immigrants) had no interest in becoming members

    • Fear of being blacklisted was a deterrent


Why so few gains1

Why so few gains?

  • 2. Unions were too few, poorly organized and led, often distracted by non-industrial issues ….. National Labor Union, Knights…

  • 3. Labor / Unions were internally divided: exclusion of potential members: immigrants, minorities, women, unskilled by some unions ….AFL

  • 4. Application of Sherman Anti-Trust Act against Labor: intended to break up monopolies not Unions: Unions were unfairly deemed to be in “restraint of trade“ – primary application of act was to curb unions


Why so few gains2

Why so few gains?

  • 5. The powerful forces operating against Labor were too much:

    • Wealthy Corporations could wait-out strikes (spies, blacklists, strike-breakers, yellow dog contracts)

    • Government: City (Mayors, Police), State (Governors, National Guard / Militia), Federal (Presidents, Federal Troops, AG, Injunctions)

    • Media: Newspapers usually owned by businessmen and often hostile: negative press


Unions and strikes1

Unions and Strikes

  • Unions / Federations and Leaders

  • 1. National Labor Union, Sylvis

  • 2. Knights of Labor, Stephens, Powderly

  • 3. American Federation of Labor (AFL), Gompers

  • 4. Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), Haywood

  • 5. American Railway Union, Debs

  • Strikes

  • 1. National Railroad Strike

  • 2. McCormick Harvester Strike….Haymarket Square

  • 3. Homestead Strike

  • 4. Pullman Strike


Why was labor so weak

Why was Labor so weak?

  • 1. Too few workers joined: 4%

  • 2. Too few Unions; poorly led and organized

  • 3. Internal Division and Exclusion

  • 4. Sherman Anti-Trust Act

  • 5. Faced powerful hostile forces


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